By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The holidays are happening at the Carnegie Museum of Art where many families make an annual pilgrimage to see the holiday trees and the 250-year-old Italian nativity called the Presepio.

Every Saturday afternoon through December 18, the Museum has live concerts among the trees, and if you want to learn more about the Precepio, there are drop-in “art chats” Thursday evenings and twice on Saturdays. All are included with admission.

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KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen takes us on a tour with the museum’s curator of decorative arts and design, Rachel Delphia.

Kristine: Rachel, we’re here in the room with the trees. What’s the theme this year?

Rachel: So the theme this year is bedazzled. So we have all these wonderful interpretations of the theme, from the beautiful constellations of the winter sky, to this tree, “Will you marry me?” If anybody’s looking for a great place to propose this year, this might be a good spot. But bring your own ring, though, there is one on top as the tree topper.

And then here we have “Diamonds in the Wild” with these wonderful little wild animals hiding in the snowy boughs, the chandelier is beautiful glass and snowflakes. It just feels like a winter wonderland.

Kristine: Then this has a big “60” at the top. What’s that for?

Rachel: It does, and that is because it’s the 60th anniversary of our Carnegie trees. So for 16 years, the Women’s Committee of the Museum of Art has been putting on these incredible trees, and they’re for the museum and our visitors and really for the City of Pittsburgh.

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Kristine: So who makes all of these ornaments?

Rachel: The Women’s Committee makes these ornaments by hand, and I’ll tell you, they’re usually at work in July. Really, it’s Christmas in July, and I just love seeing the creativity. I think these flowers are so beautiful. They’re made of paper and then they have this beautiful glitter around them. Those really took my breath away.

Kristine: So Rachel, now we’re in a different part of the museum. Explain where we are and what we are looking at.

Rachel: So we are in the State Galleries, which is the museum’s home for our paintings and sculpture, much of the art collection, and we are looking at the Neapolitan Presepio.

Kristine: Okay. And so, for people who’ve never seen it before, what is it?

Rachel: So the Neapolitan Precepio is our 18th century Neapolitan nativity scene. So that word was actually comes from a Latin word, praesepe, which means “manger.” This is really an elaborate multimedia art form that the residents of Naples and Sicily, more than 250 years ago, developed to celebrate this Biblical story that was so central to their experience as a predominantly Catholic culture. So on the left hand side, we see the Holy Family and they’re under a Roman ruins. Not only is this part of modern landscape, a familiar site, Roman ruins in southern Italy, and it also symbolizes the way that Rome fell, and this was the end of a pagan order as a coming of Christianity. So that’s true throughout this object. It’s really a combination of details of everyday rituals. 300 years ago, and biblical, biblical stories and symbols….

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So one of the beautiful things about this art form is it really brings together the religious world, and as we look around this room, one of the things that’s so special about having it here is we see other religious paintings. So in fact, this is flanked by two beautiful paintings. The one on the right here being another artistic interpretation of the Nativity.

Kristine Sorensen