Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas
detail: presepio nativity scene by Artist Unknown

The Presepio at the Spencer Museum of Art

November 26 - January 5, 2014 | Raymond E. White Teaching Gallery, Third Floor

In a popular annual tradition, the Spencer Museum's eighteenth-century Italian Presepio is once again on display. The opulent nativity scene appears in its original architectural setting of a ruined basilica, with Italian street figures and accessories adding period detail. These intricate figures are part of the collection donated to the University of Kansas by Sallie Casey Thayer in 1917 as the basis for the university art collection, which was dedicated in 1928. The Spencer's Presepio is one of the finest examples of its genre in the United States.

This Presepio ensemble and the related free-standing figures that the Spencer is fortunate to possess provided significant inspiration for the work of artists Ann Hamilton and Cynthia Schira in their recent Spencer Museum exhibition An Errant Line. For this reimagining of the Spencer Museum’s collections and galleries, the walls of the Central Court were filled with over-life-size images of these lively, Neapolitan figures created by Ann Hamilton using an obsolete scanner. Visitors can experience these works again by purchasing the multi-author book documenting this exhibition, which is available at the lobby front desk and through the Spencer’s Amazon store.