Father Gregory Gerrer was an Oklahoma artist and collector of curiosities who traveled the world in the early 20th century, assembling a collection of art and objects that now serves as the foundation for one of the state's oldest museums.
Gerrer founded St. Gregory's Museum and Art Gallery in 1919 to open his collection to friends and neighbors. Much of it is still on public view today at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, located on the campus of St. Gregory's University, 1900 W. MacArthur in Shawnee.
A French immigrant who came to Oklahoma in 1891, Gerrer used his talent as an artist and art restorer to barter for many pieces in the collection. When he died in 1946, he had amassed a diverse collection totaling more than 6,500 objects, including a cuirassier's helmet worn by Napoleon's guards.
With Egyptian pottery dating from 6000 B.C. sharing the spotlight with modern art from Pablo Picasso, the museum boasts that its eclectic accumulation of art and artifacts spans a greater breadth of time and human culture than any other Oklahoma museum.
Items range from the beautiful to the bizarre. An elegant, 14th-century ivory triptych from France sits just feet from a pair of shrunken human heads from the Amazon. A 560-year-old suit of armor, complete with shield and halberd, stands guard over a heavenly collection of medieval religious art that includes a wooden Madonna believed to have been crafted in the 12th or 13th century. African dance masks glare down at displays of Aztec, Mayan and Incan craftsmanship.
The museum's 2,400-year-old mummy, a female named Tutu, is the highlight of the Egyptian collection, which also includes jewelry, canopic jars and a mummified cat and hawk. The Oriental collection includes a Japanese samurai helmet from around 1500 and figurines from the Tang Dynasty, along with statues of Buddha, pipes and bowls.
An artist of some acclaim, Gerrer was commissioned to paint the official portrait of Pope Pius X for the 1904 World's Fair. The massive painting hangs prominently in the museum, while a copy, also painted by Gerrer, resides in the Vatican. Other examples of his work are also displayed.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for students. Children 5 and younger are free.
For more information, visit www.mgmoa.org.
Price writes online at www.travelblur.com.