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How did Italian immigrants shape the American urban landscape with their artistic skills? This is the question that The Italian Factor, a documentary by Eduardo Montes-Bradley, supported by the Columbus Citizens Foundation, tries to answer by telling the story of the Piccirilli family and other talented Italian artists.


The Piccirilli was a remarkable family of sculptors and stone carvers from Massa-Carrara, a region in Tuscany famous for its marble quarries. They settled in New York in the late 19th century. They worked on some of the most iconic monuments in the country, such as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where they carved Daniel Chester French's majestic statue of the seated Abraham Lincoln.

She stood at parapets and wondered who had worked the stones, shaped these details of the suavest nuance, chevrons and rosettes, urns on balustrades, the classical swags of fruits. The scroll brackets supporting a balcony, and she thought they must have been immigrants, Italian stone carvers, probably, unremembered, artists anonymous of the early century, buried in the sky. Don DeLillo, Underworld


They also created original works of public art, such as the USS Maine National Monument and the Firemen's Memorial, both in New York City. The Piccirilli were not only masters of their craft but trusted with the execution in marble for designs of the most prestigious American sculptors. We owe Patience and Fortitude, the lions at the New York Public Library's main entrance, and the exquisite New York Stock Exchange pediment to their talent as stone carvers. By the turn of the century, the Piccirilli had earned distinguished community members' respect, including Theodore Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller, and Enrico Caruso.

ATTILIO PICCIRILLI reminds me of a well-cultivated, perfect, sweet California orange. It is so typically American - only the seed came from Italy. I say he is purely American because he is part of the artistic life of our country. - Fiorello LaGuardia


The Italian Factor explores the legacy of this extraordinary family and how they contributed to shaping the American Renaissance in public works of art. Like many other Italian artists, their work transformed America's urban landscape with ancient beauty, one monument at a time. The Italian Factor is a story about art, history, and a unique cultural identity that deserves to be remembered and celebrated.



Made possible with a significant contribution from the Columbus Citizens Foundation and

Documentary Film Fund, the institutional support of the Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College,

The City University of New York, City of Massa, National Italian American Foundation,

Province of Massa Carrara, Woodlawn Cemetery, and the Ministry of Culture of Carrara.


Made in collaboration with Michele Bogart, Joseph Sciorra, Susan Olsen, Maria Mattei, Soldano Silvano,

Thayer Tolles, Ilaria Zolesi, Carmen Rusconi, Eve Kahn, Meredith Mileti, Jonathan Kuhn,

Joel Rosenkranz, Richard Guy Wilson, Josephine Murphy.  


Executive producer Lisa Ackerman Producer Consultant Maria Mattei

Development Jeffrey Plank Producer Soledad Liendo 

Director of Communications (Italy) Daniela Marzano 1st Ass. Director William Montes-Liendo

Written and Directed by  Eduardo Montes-Bradley

From the Republic's early days, sculptors struggled to express the nation's values into motionless characters, taller than those who pass by at their feet, figures that could convey, in a silent language, the high legend of glory, war, and knowledge. These sculptors aimed to create gardens of public figures that, in the name of the past, will command us to think of things that are not of this world. 


The Italian Factor explores the extent of collaboration between Italian and American sculptors, a partnership that began when the first Italian artists were called to work on the Nation’s Capitol. This collaboration will evolve over decades.

By 1876, the United States government was ready to commission public works to reinforce the idea of a nation coming to age. These commissions were offered to native sculptors who depended heavily on the know-how of Italians in Florence and Rome to execute their models made of plaster or clay. This dependency on foreign assistance was expensive; it required constant travel to and from different locations in Italy that would allow the American artists to acquire the stone and supervise the rendition of the definitive work.  That relationship changed with the arrival at the turn of the century of Italian sculptors ready to execute the models in Brooklyn, Manhattan, The Bronx, and later in many other parts of the country. The paradigm shift facilitated and accelerated the production of public works, ultimately resulting in what will be known as the American Renaissance.

The Italian Factor pays special tribute to the Piccirilli of a Massa-Carrara, a family of sculptors who, from the moment of their arrival in New York in 1888 to their virtual disappearance from public life after War Wolrd II, executed more than five hundred works of public art including Daniel Chester French’s seated Abraham Lincoln at his Memorial, Frederick MacMonnies Civic Virtue Fountain, the pediment of the New York Stock Exchange, Patience and Fortitude, the lions flanking the entrance to the New York Public Library, and countless other works of art. Best known among the Piccirilli brothers was Attilio, whose reputation as a modeler and sculptor brought him fame and glory with the USS Maine Memorial in Columbus Circle, at the entrance to Central Park, pediment and sculptural details for the Frick Mansion on 5th Avenue and the Firemen's Memorial in Riverside Park. 

This page is regularly updated for accuracy and clarity.

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