December 9, 2014

The Presepe Napoletano Returns to the IAM With Anita Sanseverino and Lou Barrella

Lou Barrella and Anita Sanseverino
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
Last Thursday (Dec. 4th) I returned to the Italian American Museum (IAM) for the annual Presepe Napoletano lecture and photo exhibit with Anita Sanseverino. I’ve been attending Anita’s presentation at the museum since 2009, and each year it gets bigger and better. All-encompassing, she covers everything about this fascinating Christmas custom, from its humble origins with Saint Francis of Assisi in the 13th century, to the golden age under the Neapolitan Bourbons, to today's artisans and their world famous workshops on the Via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples.
The event was heightened with a fantastic new audiovisual presentation by Lou Barrella, illustrating the manifold techniques and materials used in making these charming figures and highly elaborate dioramas replete with symbolism.

This year we finally got to meet Mr. Barrella, the man behind the DVD, who briefly spoke about his own interest in the presepi. Matching Anita’s passion for the tradition, Mr. Barrella put together a phenomenal video montage featuring many of Anita’s photos accompanied by some of Italy’s most popular Christmas music, putting us all in the festive spirit.
Joining our speakers were John Miniero and Gianvito Bottalico, two very talented presepi builders, who were kind enough to loan examples of their work to the museum. Mr. Miniero, I learned, has been displaying a large outdoor presepe for nearly twenty years in front of his house in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. He was kind enough to invite me over for a look [see upcoming post].
In addition to Anita’s spectacular photos, I was happy to discover that the IAM is once again home to the Presepe della Pace, or “Nativity of Peace.” The 18th century style presepe comes from the famed Ferrigno workshop in Naples and was generously donated to the Federazione delle Associazioni della Campania USA after the events of 9/11 by the President of the Region of Campania, Antonio Bassolino. 
Anita’s photos and the Presepe della Pace will be on display in the museum’s gallery throughout the Christmas season.
John Miniero with some of his presepi
A close-up of Mr. Miniero's presepe
Gianvito Bottalico shows us his presepe 
The Presepe della Pace 
St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary
A fishmonger