Bethlehem Tree: Younger Foundation Crèche Collection
December 1, 2018 – January 6, 2019
Trustmark Grand Hall
Jewell Younger Graeber of Marks, Mississippi, lovingly acquired the figures in this magnificent display over more than 20 years, in order to share the collection with the children of Mississippi. The installation in the Museum’s Trustmark Grand Hall includes more than 150 authentic and scarce 18th-century figures and includes beloved religious figures Mary, Joseph, and the Three Magi, along with numerous angels and townspeople.
The Bethlehem Tree collection was inspired by a 1985 trip to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) by Mrs. Graeber. There she first viewed the world-renowned Angel Tree exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was so moved that she began to build her own collection of handcrafted Italian figures through private venues and auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
The collection is curated by Mrs. Graeber’s daughter, Gay Graeber Stubbs of Oxford. “This display was specifically collected and displayed for the children of Mississippi,” said Stubbs. “When my mother and daddy viewed the breathtaking Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Angel Tree, Mother watched the faces of small children light up with wonder at the scene. Her comment was, ‘The children of New York are so fortunate to see this. The children of Mississippi would never have this experience.’”
Like those on display at the Met, the figures in the Younger collection are made of metal wrapped in hemp. The heads and shoulders are painted terra cotta; the eyes, glass. Hands and feet are made of wood. Each figure is dressed in a costume of meticulous and minute detail.
This exhibition is free and open to the public.