Updated: Dec 26, 2022
Notes for a documentary film | Part 1
Six Italian brothers, all children of Giuseppe Piccirilli, ran the most prolific sculpture studio in America between the early 1890s and the Great Depression. In those years, The Piccirilli Studio produced many of the most significant monuments, statues, and memorials adorning parks, courtyards, private museums, and public buildings from Boston to Washington, DC.
The Piccirilli operated as a well-oiled machine, and although each project was assigned to a particular brother, the Piccirilli team received the credit. However, in retrospect, it is now reasonable to say that the mastermind of the Piccirilli effort in America was Attilio (1866 – 1945), second in the line of succession to the patriarch Giuseppe
Sculptors such as John Quincy Adams Ward, Paul Bartlett, Frederick MacMonnies, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Daniel Chester French would trust anyone else for the execution, on marble, of previously designed models in clay.
The collaboration began early with recommendations by Attilio regarding the feasibility of the design and the characteristics of the marble of choice. Attilio had grown up and come to age in the town of Massa, a small village on the foothills of the Apuan Alps, not far (a stone's throw) from the veins quarried by Bernini and Michelangelo in Carrara. Knowing the marble and the local traders so well put Attilio in a place of privilege. He and his brothers will not only execute the work of America’s best-known sculptors, but they hold the key. Their hometown was Massa, and they also held the key to the raw material, thus becoming indispensable to the community of artists who, before the arrival of the Piccirilli in the late 1880s, traveled to Italy to learn and to buy a seat at the Renaissance’s table at a very high cost and in a foreign language. That all changed when Attilio Piccirilli set foot on the docks of Battery Park.