The word presépio is widely used to describe the scene of Christ's birth, and it has been a popular feature of Portuguese life since the Middle Ages. However, is was in the baroque period that scuptural representations of the Nativity enjoyed their period of greatest splendour. The number of extra figures multiplied, being used to illustrate the customs and attitudes of ordinary people. Religious institutions, the court, nobles and rulers all commissioned the most diverse representations of the scene for their own enjoyment.
These "genre sculptures capture typical street or suburban country scenes for the nobility to admire, showing people going happily about their idealised labours, stimulated by the spread of the Good News".