The Carnegie Trees & Neapolitan Presepio Are A Holiday Gem

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on December 20, 2023.

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We love it when local museums decorate for Christmas in Pittsburgh as it always gives us an excuse to visit one more time before the end of the holiday season.

The Carnegie Museum of Art gets into the holiday fun with two annual exhibits worth checking out- the Carnegie Trees and the Neapolitan Presepio. While both of these exhibits are on the smaller side compared to other exhibits we've been to, they pack in a lot of detail that will have you lingering for quite some time.

The Carnegie Trees are Simply Stunning

Carnegie Trees at the Carnegie Museum of Art

If you consider yourself a fan of Christmas trees, you'll want to make your way to the Hall of Architecture for the Carnegie Trees. The museum has been featuring five beautifully decorated Fraser Fir trees in the hall since 1961 and the decorations rival those that you can find at other top holiday exhibits in the area (like the trees at Phipps Conservatory's Winter Flower Show).

My visit in 2021 also coincided with the 60th anniversary of the trees, and to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary the museum has aptly themed all the trees as Bedazzled. When you see how bright and shiny these trees are, you really can understand why they went for that theme!

Carnegie Trees at the Carnegie Museum of Art

Do yourself a favor and really take a close look at all the decorations on the trees as it features handmade ornaments and other hidden gems thrown into the mix. After, take another loop around the hall to check out the cast replicas of some of the world's architectural masterpieces.

The Neapolitan Presepio is a Nativity Scene Unlike No Other

Neapolitan Presepio in Pittsburgh

The second holiday exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art is the Neapolitan Presepio located deep within the Scaife Galleries that has been on display for the holidays since 1957. These ones are tucked away within the gallery so much that I had to ask for directions several times to end up at the right place. 

This exhibit is a southern Italian-inspired nativity scene depicting rural life in Naples with handcrafted figures made between 1700 and 1830. We want to say this is one of the largest nativity scenes we've ever been able to enjoy, but considering there is a monster replica of the Vatican's nativity in downtown Pittsburgh, we need to alter the word choice accordingly. Instead, we should call this the most ornate nativity scene we've ever seen. It is truly a masterpiece.

Neapolitan Presepio in Pittsburgh

You really can spend a great deal of time looking at all the intricate details in this one as the artists went to great lengths to depict life in Naples every chance they could get. In fact, it took me several moments of looking just to be able to find the conventional icons of a nativity scene, too (although the angels are kind of a giveaway)!

Overall, the Carnegie Museum of Art may not go all-out in decorating its halls for Christmas, but its two staple holiday exhibits offer a great reason to return to the museum one more time before the end of the year. After checking out these exhibits, the rest of the Carnegie Museum of Art and Museum of Natural History is open for exploring, so plan to make a day of it checking out other great exhibits like the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, the dinosaur exhibits, and the absurd amount of art to name a few!

The Carnegie Museum of Art is located at 4400 Forbes Avenue. The holiday exhibits typically runs from late November to the end of the first week of January.

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