The Piccirilli Studio: Public Sculpture For the Nation

Introduction

The Piccirilli family, consisting of both parents, six sons and a daughter, arrived in New York City in 1888 from Massa-Carrara in Tuscany where the father, Giuseppe, operated a sculpture studio. By 1893, they had established a residence and sculpture studio at 467 E. 142nd St. in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. The studio closed in 1945, the year that three of the brothers died. It was demolished in the 1970s and the site is currently occupied by a Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall.

Original Piccirilli sculptures can be found throughout New York City and the nation. The Maine Monument at the southwest corner of Central Park (in Columbus Circle) is probably the best known original Piccirilli work in New York. Other original Piccirilli sculptures include the Firemen's Memorial on Riverside Drive and W. 100th St., the large glass sculpture, "Youth Leading Industry", over the entrance to 636 Fifth Ave. in Rockefeller Center (opposite St. Patrick's Cathedral) and the Policemen's Memorial at One Police Plaza. The brothers, Ferruccio, Attilio, Furio, Masaniello, Orazio, and Getulio, were also master marble carvers. Many sculptors brought their plaster casts to the studio to be carved in marble. Their best known carving project is Abraham Lincoln in Washington D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial. Other well-known Piccirilli carvings include the New York Public Library Lions at 42nd St. and Fifth Ave., the sculptures on the Washington Arch in Greenwich Village, and the pediment of the New York Stock Exchange, among many others.

In between commissions for large public sculptures, the brothers produced many smaller works, often for their own personal artistic interests. Most of these are housed in museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or in private collections.

Attilio was a co-founder of the Leonardo da Vinci Art School, originally located at 288 E. 10th St. in Manhattan. The school offered art education to thousands of working class New Yorkers from 1923 to 1940. Several students won the prestigious Prix de Rome, and Isamu Noguchi received his early training at "The Leonardo".

The Piccirilli brothers were modest people and perhaps publicity shy. But they were well known in certain circles.Virtually all the sculptors of their time visited the studio. Some worked there, and some actually lived there. The studio became an important center for American art. Teddy Roosevelt, Enrico Caruso, and John D. Rockefeller also visited the studio. Fiorello LaGuardia was a close friend of the family for decades. "The Leonardo" received testimonials from Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Edison, Al Smith, and many, many others.

About this Website

The text of the History section follows closely an article written by Bill and Mary Carroll for The Bronx County Historical Society Journal (Spring, 1999). The big difference, though, is that the website has over fiftyphotos; the article had only three.The focus of both the article and the website is the sameā€”for the most part we restrict ourselves to works found in New York City. At a later date we plan to include works from all over the country and beyond. The brothers basically did two kinds of work: their own original sculptures and marble carving for other sculptors. Many American sculptors brought plaster casts of their clay models to the Piccirilli Studio to be carved (and often enlarged). We try to make a careful distinction between original Piccirilli sculptures and carving projects for other artists.

The Memoir section was written by our friend and colleague, Jerry Capa (Gennaro Capacchione) actually knew the brothers when he was a teenager in the 1940's. His memoir brings the reader inside the studio and provides important insights into the people behind the famous sculptures.

Since we began to research the Piccirilli story in 1998 several New York City newspapers published articles on the Piccirilli Studio. The Press section includes a sampling.

 

 

Last modified: Oct 31, 2013

  • Arts & Humanities News and Events
  • Undergraduate Bulletin
  • Graduate Bulletin
  • Apply Now