Freeing the Angel From the Stone

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New Exhibit of Original Sculptures by Attilio Piccirilli, Plus Photos and Memorabilia of all the Piccirilli brothers will be on view at the Italian American Museum, October 19 through December 15, 2005.

The Italian American Museum will present Freeing the Angel from the Stone, an exhibition of original sculptures, photos and memorabilia of the six Piccirilli brothers, skilled stone carvers and the sons of Giuseppe Piccirilli a famous sculptor from Massa-Carrara. The brothers designed their own works and also sculpted for other artists, including Daniel Chester French, creator of the Lincoln statue in The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Attilio Piccirilli created all of the original sculptures on view in this exhibition. One is a marble bust of Mrs. Josephine Louise Newcomb (affectionately called "Mother") from 1900 on loan from the Bronx Historical Society. A bronze bust of Thomas Jefferson owned by Queens College is included - the original marble sculpture of Thomas Jefferson was created for the rotunda of the State Capitol Building in Virginia in 1931. The bronze bust of Jefferson was cast sometime afterwards. The Conner-Rosenkranz Gallery located in New York City lends two earlier bronze sculptures one from 1889 "Head of a Boy," and "Head of a Woman," 1900. In addition, the Gallery has lent an original plaster model for the National Maine Memorial Monument called "Atlantic," 1910. Dr. Michael Nieland of Pittsburgh, Penn provided one of Attilio’s major works called "Spring Dream," bronze, 1918. Tiro A Segno of New York, Inc. lent a bronze bust of Leonardo daVinci. The family of Attilio’s biographer, Josef Vincent Lombardo, a former Queens College Professor, offered a first edition book "Attilio Piccirilli, Life of an American Sculptor" for this exhibition as well as a bronze entitled, "Young Virgin."

The Piccirilli exhibit will be on view from October 19 through December 15, 2005 at the Italian American Museum, currently located at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute/Queens College, at 28 West 44th Street (17th floor) in Manhattan.

The Piccirilli family migrated from Italy to New York’s South Bronx in 1888. Attilio Piccirilli, the brother best known for his original sculpture including those on view in this exhibition, designed and created many prominent works throughout Manhattan. They include the Fireman’s Memorial on Riverside Drive West; the door of Riverside Church; the Policeman’s Memorial at One New York Plaza; "The Joy of Life" bas-relief at Rockefeller Center; the pediments of the Frick Reference Library; and the National Maine Memorial at Columbus Circle.

Among the public works designed by other sculptors, though carved by the Piccirillis, are: Sanford White’s Memorial Arch in Washington Square Park; Patience and Fortitude, the lions in front of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street; the pediment sculpture of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street by John Quincy Adams Ward; “The Four Continents” of the Custom House; the allegorical figures of Brooklyn and Manhattan and the pediment figures on the Brooklyn Museum--all by Daniel Chester French; and the pediment statuary of the New York Public Library by Paul Wayland Bartlett. Photographs of these will be included in this exhibition.

Various sculptors of the early 1900’s gave their models to the Piccirillis to fashion into monumental works. For example, the Lincoln Memorial sculpture was created by the Piccirillis in 28 sections of marble blocks weighing 175 tons in their Bronx studio. In 1919, the blocks were transported by train from New York to Washington, D.C., and assembled at the site.

The Piccirillis owned two brownstone houses in the South Bronx. One became their home and the other became one of the most productive sculpture studios of its time, active from 1890 through 1945.

Curated by the museum’s Curator of Collections, Maria Cocchiarelli with Jerry and Eleanor Koffler - Freeing the Angel from the Stone began with the Kofflers’ research. This, presented in a guidebook of the Piccirilli brothers’ public sculpture in New York City is soon to be published by the Italian American Museum and is similarly titled. An educational brochure will accompany the exhibition and include essays by Dr. Henry Adams, Historian of American art at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and by Jonathan Kuhn, Director of Art & Antiquities of the New York City Parks and Monuments Department.

Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, President of the Italian American Museum said of the exhibition, "It is with great pride and humility that we present a sampling of the body of work of the Piccirilli Brothers. They made an enormous contribution by their own hands to the beautification of America’s monuments and sacred places. They must be remembered."

The exhibition’s opening reception is scheduled for October 19, 6-8 pm. The museum also plans to host three public programs, including a lecture on the Piccirilli brothers with the Kofflers (October 26, 6-8 pm); a slide lecture on the 1930’s and 1980’s restorations of the national Maine Memorial with Kate Burns Ottavino, director of the A. Ottavino Corporation (November 2, 6-8 pm) and a screening of a recent documentary on the Piccirilli brothers by filmmaker Robert DiMaio (December 7, 6-8 pm.)

The Italian American Museum is the first museum dedicated to preserving and presenting the cultural and social contributions of Italian Americans to the American way of life. The Piccirilli exhibit will be open to the public from Monday to Friday, 10 am – 4 pm or by appointment (212-642-2020).

Contact: Maria Fosco (212) 642-2048

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