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Local

18th century Neapolitan créche on display in Geneva

Historic scene shows Naples celebrating Christ's birth

The Geneva History Museum’s 18th century  Neapolitan créche is on display through Dec. 21 at 113 S. Third St. The ricotta merchant - far left – has new blue silk pants, as the original ones had begun to dissolve from age. The woman wearing red coral, second from left, also has a new apron for the same reason, but preservationists used the original trim on the new silk.
The Geneva History Museum’s 18th century Neapolitan créche is on display through Dec. 21 at 113 S. Third St. The ricotta merchant - far left – has new blue silk pants, as the original ones had begun to dissolve from age. The woman wearing red coral, second from left, also has a new apron for the same reason, but preservationists used the original trim on the new silk.

GENEVA – The Geneva History Museum's 18th century Neapolitan créche is on display through Dec. 21 at 113 S. Third St., Geneva.

The 300-year-old créche figures have been repaired and some of their clothing replaced as age has caught up to them.

“Some of their textiles are original,” Executive Director Terry Emma said. “And they are literally falling off the bodies.”

One example is a card player in the tavern scene.

“His jacket is literally falling off his arm. And if you touch it, it just breaks apart,” Emma said.

“The ricotta man got new pants this year,” she said, referring to one of the merchants selling pots of ricotta cheese. “You could see his bare legs through the pants last year. It was so frayed, it was just pieces of cloth.”

The museum got nice piece of silk to replace his pants. Heidi Howlett, the museum educator, made him a new pair, Emma said.

“She’s a great seamstress,” Emma said.

A new apron was made for one of the red coral necklace ladies – prevalent in Naples and worn for good luck – because hers was falling apart, Emma said.

“We used the trim from the original one and we were able to put it back onto this fabric,”she said.

The museum spent $4,000 to have a preservationist clean it. Emma said the preservationist also does repairs when one of the Naples people loses a finger.

“It’s made of paper mâché, moss and cork,” Emma said.

The museum seeks to have its créche figures “adopted” for $500 – with the money paying for ongoing cleaning, maintenance and repairs.

The “adoption” can be in honor of someone, she said.

“My family adopted one for my father and one for my mother,” Emma said. “Last year, we took six figures in to be worked on. There’s always something that needs to be done.”

There are four figures left for adoption, but the cow and the donkey are $250 each because the full body is not there, just the heads.

The cow, donkey and a lamb are the only three original animals, Emma said.

Other animals were added to help tell the story of the people of Naples celebrating the birth of Christ – as the scene was never intended to be just the holy family, angels and wise men, Emma said.

La Georgiana is the only woman in pants in the scene.

“She represents the ethnicity of Naples,” Emma said.

The La Georgiana has a monkey – made out of clay by the museum’s archivist Gayle Meers, Emma said.

“We’d love to have a horse or an elephant, but we want to make sure it’s the appropriate look and the right dimensions,” Emma said.

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