Attilio Piccirilli

Attilio Piccirilli (May 16, 1866 – October 8, 1945) was an American sculptor. Born in the province of Massa-Carrara, Italy, he was educated at the Accademia di San Luca of Rome.

Piccirilli NSS Exhibition 1916
Attilio Piccirilli, circa 1916
Maine Memorial, NYC, 1913
Wisconsin State Capitol
Firemens Memorial south jeh
Allegorical figures at the Firemen's Memorial, 1913

Life and career

Piccirilli came to the United States in 1888 and worked for his father and then with the Piccirilli Brothers as a sculptor, modeler and stone carver at their studio in The Bronx, New York, at 467 East 142nd Street. This location is now a vacant lot. As artist in his own right, he is the author of the Maine Memorial in Columbus Circle, at the entrance to Central Park. One of the groups that he created for this monument was also used for his mother's memorial in Woodlawn Cemetery. Also in New York he created a pediment and other sculptural details for the Frick Mansion on 5th Avenue and the Firemen's Memorial, a group of figures in Riverside Park.

As Piccirilli gained fame, he became invaluable to many American sculptors. Before Piccirilli and his family arrived in America, many American artists were forced to travel to Italy to have their models carved into stone. In the case of Attilio, if an artist presented him with small plaster model, Attilio could create a marble replica to any size. In fact, the vast majority of Attilio's works were designed by other artists. Fragilina is one of the view works that was designed and sculpted into marble by Attilio himself. Piccirilli's most famous work is the creation of the Lincoln statue for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, which was originally designed by Daniel Chester French. Attilio and his family collaborated with Paul Eartlett, Frederick MacMonnies, Hermon MacNeil, Massey Rhind, Karl Bitter, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Olin Warner, Lorado Taft, Charles Niehaus, and Andrew O'Connor. Piccirrili also did architectural work for Cass Gilbert, Henry Bacon, McKim, Mead, and White, Carrére, and Hastings.[1] Attilio's most famous works that which he designed and sculpted are the Maine Monument in Central Park, New York and the Fireman's Monument on Riverside Drive, New York. He also designed a Monument to Guglielmo Marconi (1941) in Washington DC.

Piccirilli became a member of the National Academy of Design and the Architectural League. He won numerous prizes including a Gold Medal at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. Attilio also helped create the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in New York City, New York. Its purpose was to give affordable training in art, like sculpture, to New York's poor.

Piccirilli's 1935 Pyrex glass relief sculpture Advance Forever, Eternal Youth over the entrance of the Palazzo d'Italia at Rockefeller Center was removed during World War Two when the Italian inscriptions were used by Mussolini,[2] and it was associated with fascist iconography. It disappeared from storage some years afterwards.

Piccirilli is represented in the sculpture collection at Brookgreen Gardens. His work is also found in museums around the United States. White marble "Fragilina" now stands in the newly re-arranged American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

He died in New York City in 1945. He is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City. His half-length portrait by Edmond Thomas Quinn is in the collection of the National Academy of Design.[3]

Selected public commissions


Fragilina is the name given to a sculpture completed by Attilio Piccirilli in 1923. The original is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, New York. It is 48 ½ inches by 15 ½ inches by 25 inches. It is completely made of marble. Piccirilli also made five additional smaller copies, one of which is in the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary.[12]

"Fragilina" in Italian means "the little delicate one." Fragilina is part of a series of female nudes that Attilio sculpted, beginning with "A Soul" in 1909. The woman in Fragilina is almost identical in pose to the woman in "A Soul." Though, in Fragilina, more marble is cut away to leave a freer, fluid, and abstract work. Going with the theme of the work being abstract, many art critics criticize the oval-shaped head that gives less definition to the hair and face. Some say, "the eyes appear almost veiled in stone." When discussing Fragilina, Piccirilli said, "Every person has his own ideal of beauty stored away in his subconscious mind. When facial characteristics are precisely delineated, the observer is denied the opportunity of personally visualizing his ideal type. This reaction frequently takes place without full realization." [13] So, as can be seen with Fragilina and his subsequent works, it can be said he was a minimalist. Piccirilli was described impeccably in the book, Attilio Piccirilli: Life of an American Sculptor, by Josef Vincent Lombardo. Lombardo writes, "Piccirilli's art stands out boldly for its discipline, simplicity, and dignity.... His sculpture was and is simply tailored, free from adventitious detail and superficiality... Piccirilli's style is distinctly personal and highly selective. Simplicity is his gospel, restraint his creed." Fragilina was one of five works Piccirilli showed at the exhibit at the National Sculpture Society in New York in 1923.[14] It was also exhibited at the National Academy of Design commemorative exhibition in 1925. Piccirilli also made smaller versions of Fragilina, including two bronze casts. One of which is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.


  1. ^ Tolles, p.214.
  2. ^ "ADVANCE FOREVER ETERNAL YOUTH by Attilio Piccirilli". Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  3. ^ It is illustrated in David Bernard Dearinger, Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design 2004:455.2004:455
  4. ^ Another view of the sculptures.
  5. ^ World War I sculpture, from SIRIS.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-03-22. Retrieved 2014-05-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Young Faun, from SIRIS.
  8. ^ Tolles, pg. 482
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Youth Leading Industry". Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Forte, p.13.
  13. ^ Gardner, p.95.
  14. ^ National Sculpture Society, Exhibition of American Sculpture Catalogue, 156th Street of Broadway New York, The National Sculpture Society 1923 p. 341


  • Balfour, Alan, Rockefeller Center – Architecture As Theater, McGraw-Hill Book Company, NY, NY, 1978 Washington D.C. 1974
  • Goode, James M. The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press,
  • Kvaran and Lockley Architectural Sculpture in America, unpublished manuscript
  • Lombardo, Josef Vincent, Atilio Piccirilli: Life of an American Sculptor, Pitman Publishing Corporation, New York 1944
  • National Sculpture Society, Contemporary American Sculpture 1929, National Sculpture Society, New York, NY 1929
  • Opitz, Glenn B, Editor, Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers, Apollo Book, Poughkeepsie NY, 1986
  • Proske, Beatrice Gilman, Brookgreen Gardens Sculpture, Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina, 1968
  • Reynols, Donald Martin, "Masters of American Sculpture" Abbeville Press Publishers
  • Crayen, Wayne, "Sculpture in America From the Colonial Period to the Present"
  • Thayer Tolles (1999). American Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2
  • Albert Ten Eyck Gardner (1965). American Sculpture: A Catalogue of the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Kennis Forte (2011). Curators at Work: 16 Memoranda for the Curatorial Files

External links


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Guglielmo Marconi (Piccirilli)

Guglielmo Marconi is a public artwork by Attilio Piccirilli, located at the intersection of 16th and Lamont Streets, N.W., in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C., United States. It stands as a tribute to Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi. It was paid for by public subscription and erected in 1941. The artwork was listed on both the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. It is a contributing property in the Mount Pleasant Historic District. The monument was originally surveyed as part of the Smithsonian's Save Outdoor Sculpture! survey in 1994.

Harold Van Buren Magonigle

Harold Van Buren Magonigle (1867–1935) was an American architect, artist, and author best known for his memorials. He achieved his greatest success as a designer of monuments, but his artistic practices included sculpture, painting, writing, and graphic design.Born in New Jersey, Magonigle worked for Calvert Vaux, Rotch & Tilden, Schickel and Ditmars and McKim Mead & White before opening his own practice in 1903. He was the designer of the McKinley Memorial Mausoleum in Canton, Ohio and the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri both commissions won through competitions. He designed the Core Mausoleum (1910–1915) at Elmwood Cemetery.

Magonigle and sculptor Attilio Piccirilli collaborated as architect and artist on two familiar monuments in New York City: the Monument to the USS Maine in Columbus Circle, and on the Fireman's Memorial on Riverside Drive and West 100th Street. He also designed the setting for Albert Weinert's Stevens T. Mason Monument in Detroit, Michigan, and for Robert Atken's Burritt Memorial in New Britain, Connecticut.

Magonigle's wife, Edith, was a muralist who collaborated with her husband on a number of his projects.Magonigle's papers are held by the New York Public Library and by the Drawings and Archives Department in the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

USS Maine National Monument

The USS Maine National Monument is an outdoor monument, located in Central Park in Manhattan, New York. It was cast on September 1, 1912 and dedicated on May 30, 1913 to the men killed aboard USS Maine (ACR-1) when the ship exploded in Havana harbor.In 1913, a USS Maine Monument designed by Harold Van Buren Magonigle was completed and dedicated in New York City. Located at the southwest corner of Central Park at the Merchants' Gate entrance to the park, the monument consists of a pylon with a fountain at its base and sculptures by Attilio Piccirilli surrounding it. A sculpture group of gilded bronze figures atop the pylon represent Columbia Triumphant, her seashell chariot being drawn by three hippocampi. The bronze for this group reportedly came from metal recovered from the guns of the Maine. On the park side of the monument is fixed a memorial plaque that was cast in metal salvaged from the ship. It is not known how many of these plaques by sculptor Charles Keck were produced, but they can be found in many locations across the United States. They were cast by the Jno Williams Bronze Foundry and widely publicized.

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