The Metropolitan Museum of Art will celebrate the winter holidays with its annual presentation of the Christmas tree and Neapolitan Baroque crèche, the display of a spectacular late 19th-century silver Menorah and 18th-century Torah crown, and a variety of holiday-themed events at its Fifth Avenue building, located at 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue. At The Cloisters, the Met’s branch museum for medieval art and architecture in northern Manhattan, decorations with a medieval theme and early music concerts will ring in the season.
Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche
The Metropolitan Museum’s Christmas tree and Neapolitan Baroque crèche, a long-standing yuletide tradition in New York, will be on view from November 24, 2015, through January 6, 2016. The brightly lit, 20-foot blue spruce—featuring 18th-century Neapolitan angels and cherubs hovering among its boughs and groups of realistic crèche figures flanking the Nativity scene at its base—will once again delight holiday visitors in the Museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall (Gallery 305). The installation will be set in front of the 18th-century Spanish choir screen from the Cathedral of Valladolid, with Christmas music in the background and daily lighting ceremonies.
The exhibit of the crèche is made possible by gifts to The Christmas Tree Fund and the Loretta Hines Howard Fund.
The towering tree is adorned with 22 cherubs and 55 gracefully suspended angels, while the landscape at the base features an additional 69 figures that represent the three elements of Nativity scenes traditional to 18th-century Naples: adoring shepherds and their flocks, the procession of the three Magi, and colorful peasants and townspeople. The display is enhanced by 50 charming animals and by background pieces that create a dramatic setting for the Nativity, including the ruins of a Roman temple, several quaint houses, and a typical Italian fountain.
Beginning Friday, November 27, tree lighting ceremonies will take place daily at 4:30 p.m., with additional ceremonies on Fridays and Saturdays at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. All are free with Museum admission.
History of the Tree Installation
The annual Christmas display has evolved through the generosity, enthusiasm, and dedication of the late Loretta Hines Howard, who began collecting crèche figures in 1925. Mrs. Howard conceived the idea of presenting the elaborate Nativity scene within a Christmas tree—angels swirling upward to the crowning star—and was later ably assisted by her daughter Linn Howard. Throughout many decades, Linn Howard contributed to the tree’s great beauty by adding and improving details that are fundamentally reflected in the current display.
This unusual combination was first presented to the public in 1957, with the Metropolitan’s exhibition of Mrs. Howard’s collection. Since 1964, more than 200 18th-century Neapolitan crèche figures have been given to the Museum by Loretta Hines Howard, and they have been displayed each holiday season for nearly 60 years.
Visitors can listen to several related audio messages as part of the Museum’s Audio Guide program. Audio Guides are available for rental ($7, $6 for Members, $5 for children
The Audio Guide is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Performances and Programs
Christmas-themed programming at the Metropolitan Museum includes:
Saturday, December 19, at 11:00 a.m. and 1:30p.m.; Sunday, December 20, at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m., tickets start at $45 Children under four are not admitted. Bring the Kids tickets are not available for these performances.
The Little Match Girl Passion, David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning choral parable performed by Grammy-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street Wednesday, December 23, at 7:00 p.m., tickets start at $65
Start with Art and Art Trek, interactive family tours for children ages 3-11 on the
theme of light Saturday, December 26, and Sunday, December 27, at 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 2:00-3:00 p.m., free with Museum admission
School Break Programs, drop-in art-making activities for children and adults on the
theme of light January 24, 28, 29, 30, and 31, at 1:00-4:00 p.m., free with Museum admission
Eastern European Silver Menorah and Venetian Torah Crown on View for Hanukkah
In conjunction with the celebration of Hanukkah—the Jewish Festival of Lights, observed this year from the evening of December 6 through the evening of December 14&mash;a magnificent, late 19th-century silver Menorah made in Lviv, Ukraine, will be on display in The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Galleries (European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Gallery 556, first floor) through January 12, 2016. Made in 1866-72 for the Great Synagogue in Lviv, the ceremonial lamp, which is cast, chased, and engraved with elaborate motifs, is one of the largest silver Hanukkah lamps known. The Menorah is on loan from The Moldovan Family Collection.
The eight-branched Hanukkah Menorah commemorates an important moment in Jewish history: the triumphant Maccabean revolt against the oppressing Seleucid Empire and the re-consecration of the Jewish Holy Temple in 165 B.C. The lamp’s eight branches reference the miracle in which the last jug of pure olive oil, which should have lasted only one day, kept the Temple Menorah alight for eight days.
Also on view nearby will be a splendid, recently acquired 18th-century silver and parcel gilt
Torah crown from Venice (Gallery 508, first floor). In synagogues, the scroll of the Torah—the first five books of the Hebrew Bible&mash;is often decorated with a set of vestments and silver ornaments including a crown or finials, and a shield. The crown augments the Torah’s status as an object associated with royalty and speaks to the centrality of the Torah in Jewish life. The motifs depicted on the Torah crown include ritual references such as priestly garments, a miniature temple, a menorah, and the Tablets of the Law.
Featured on the Museum’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History are two essays on Jewish art—”Jews and the Arts in Medieval Europe” and “Jewish Art in Late Antiquity and Early Byzantium”—written by Barbara Drake Boehm, the Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, and Melanie Holcomb, Curator, of the Museum’s Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters. Relevant works in the Museum’s collection are listed, along with suggested further readings and additional resources.
A special handout listing these and other important examples of Judaica on view throughout the Museum will be available free of charge during Hanukkah and may be obtained at the Museum’s Information Desks.
A major international exhibition, Every People Under Heaven: Jerusalem, 1000-1400, opening in September 2016, will focus on the Holy Land.
The exhibition is made possible by The David Berg Foundation, the William S. Lieberman Fund, Diane Carol Brandt, and the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts.
MetFridays: Revel in the Season
On Friday, December 18, from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m., as part of the MetFridays series, themes of light and tradition will be explored in an evening of music, discussion, and holiday cheer.
Musical performances by the Byzantine Pop-Ups (hymns and carols of the Byzantine Empire), and three-time Grammy-nominated Afri-Caribbean music ensemble Tiempo Libre
Chats with Museum educators about works of art in the Met collection
Drop-in drawing activities and holiday garland-making
Holiday-themed cocktails and snacks available for purchase at the Great Hall Balcony Bar
Schedules and floorplans for MetFridays: Revel in the Season will be available on December 18 at the Information Desks located near Museum entrances. The event is free with Museum admission.
The Metropolitan Museum is open every Friday night until 9 p.m. A listing of what’s happening at the Met each Friday evening is available on the MetFridays webpage on the Museum’s website at www.metmuseum.org/metfridays.
Medieval Decorations at The Cloisters
Through January 6, visitors to The Cloisters will experience a unique Museum tradition that evokes festive, medieval culture. After passing under a great archway of holly boughs, which symbolize light, warmth, and welcome, the public will be greeted in the Main Hall with grand displays of fresh ivy locally sourced in Fort Tryon Park, hand-polished New York Lady apples, hazelnuts, rosehips, and pinecones. Elsewhere throughout the halls, cloisters, galleries, and
arcades, visitors will enjoy verdant topiaries and wreaths, candelabras adorned with evergreens and roses, and fragrant potted plants that symbolize and celebrate the season.
Education Programs at The Cloisters
Holiday-themed concerts by renowned early music performers include:
The Christmas Story, hymns, processionals, and antiphons by the Waverly Consort’s
13-member ensemble Saturday and Sunday, December 12 and 13, 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., $45