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Furio Piccirilli

Updated: Feb 17

NOTES FOR A DOCUMENTARY FILM


Photo reproduction in Black and White from original oil on canvas.
Furio Piccirilli

Collectively, they were known as The Piccirilli Brothers, a fact that the family would reinforce in public at any given opportunity. In the fiercely competitive world of stone carving in times of the American Renaissance, the idea was essential to the branding and a marketing strategy that, in great measure, was responsible for setting the Piccirilli apart and ahead of their competitors by consolidating all facets of production under one roof.


The combined individual talents of six brothers eliminated the need for outsourcing, which was common among competitors soliciting public art commissions.


This is the only available photograph of the six brothers together.
The Piccirilli Brothers

Clients of the Piccirilli Studio found all the marble and stone expertise required to create a significant public work of art within the cluster of buildings the brothers occupied in the Bronx, mirroring the centuries-old model developed in Europe. However, this collaborative spirit was porous, allowing for individual development, which over nearly fifty years produced some remarkable results. One such case was that of Furio Piccirilli.


FURIO PICCIRILLI


Furio (né Furio Camillo Tommaso Enrico), was born on March 27th, 1868, in Massa. Like is father and his brother Attilio before him, he also studied at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. According to Attilio, Furio excelled in creating bas-reliefs and was considered the most accomplished modeler among the clan. His exceptional work was showcased at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 and received awards at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in 1915.


The frontispiece of the California Building was created by Furio Piccirilli
California Building, San Diego, California

In 1921, Furio designed the four seated figures adorning the side entrances of the Parliament House in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1926, he crafted life-size statues of Velazquez, Murillo, and Zurbaran, along with busts of El Greco and Ribera for the opening of the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. His Madonna and Baby Faun, inspired by the Florentine style of the 15th century, showcased Furio's academic training and poetic sensibility.


The image was possibly captured at the Villa Piccirilli in Pietrasanta. Eduardo Montes-Bradley Collection.
Wide and children of Furio Piccirilli with The Seal. Pietrasanta c.1926

Furio standing next to Atillio at the lion’s fountain in Massa.
Furio, first from left to right, in Piazza Aranci, Massa, 1921 | Conner and Rosenkranz Collection

Furio's animal sculptures, especially those adorning the six neo-classical buildings surrounding the central Sea Lion pool at the Bronx Zoo, were notable. His in-residence work at the zoo likely inspired his creation of the black marble Seal, now preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for which he received the Speyer Prize at the National Academy of Design exhibition in 1929. The Instituto Felice Palma of Massa-Carrara preserves a plaster model of the Seal used for replication, and at least one of the copies produced in Italy remains in public view.


Madonna, by Furio Piccirilli
Madonna, by Furio Piccirilli
The Outcast, two copies in progress at a studio in Pietrasanta
The Outcast, two copies in progress at a studio in Pietrasanta

Redid by Furio and Attilio Piccirilli
From the reredos at St.Paul’s Cathedral in London


By then, Furio had already returned to Italy. The reasons for his departure from New York remain unclear. However, thanks to local historian Carmen Rusconi, Furio married his first cousin, Maria Rossi de Gasperis, in Campidoglio, Rome, on October 1, 2021. According to documents traced by Ms. Rusconi, Furio died at home in via Dandolo, near Piazza Navona, on June 20, 1949. He was 81 years old.


It is important to mention that Furio was not the sole brother to migrate back to the homeland, first born Ferruccio also went back to Italy and settled in Pietrasanta, not far from the home in Piazza Martana where he was born in Massa. Franco Frediani, also a local historian residing in Massa, has recently funded the family plot where Ferrucio was buried near Pietrasanta.


Furio with two of his children. Pietrasanta, 1931 | Conner and Rosenkranz Collection

Attilio and Massanielo working on final touches to The Seal in New York
Attilio and Massanielo working on final touches to The Seal in New York

Found recently on a public garden near Massa
The Seal

Finally, the branding strategy concerning six brothers living and working in the Bronx, remained unquestioned until now, in part because the industrious family continued to collaborate between Tuscany and New York, even during the most difficult times and throughout World War II. This collaboration was most likely based on the accessibility to quarries in Carrara, and to ability to duplicate works that could be sold in Europe. Evidence of Furio’s seal and Attilio’s The Outcast being copied at a studio in Pietrasanta attest to this continued flow of work and strong bond among the Piccirilli brothers.


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