NOTES FOR A DOCUMENTARY FILM - As I move forward cataloging the Piccirilli works for The Italian Factor, a documentary film currently in progress, I’d like to take a few minutes to create a sequence leading to the execution of the Seal by Furio Piccirilli (né Furio Camillo Tommaso Enrico), currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where I visited last week.
Seeing the Seal at the MET, I had an opportunity to paste together the pieces of a puzzle that has been troubling me for almost a year with images that I felt were speaking to me in tongues. Where was it made, and when? Why was the paster model with the points in the custody of Ilaria Zolesi, director of the Scuola di Marmo in Massa? Who was the young woman with a child in her arms looking at The Seal? Suddenly, all the questions were answered. Furio’s Seal seal was completed in Pietrasanta by Furio Piccirilli, who was almost 70 years old and married to his first cousin, a woman half his age.
Based on my records, Furio and his wife had two children, a girl, and a younger boy, so it's only fair to presume that those in the photograph looking at the Seal are, in fact, his wife and children. In a separate image, we see Furio giving the final touches to the Seal as Attilio, possibly visiting from New York, observes his brother at work. This image was not taken in the Bronx as I presumed initially and precedes the one in which Furio’s family is looking at the final masterpiece.
“Of the numbers of animals Piccirilli carved, none surpassed the sculptural quality of his "Seal." The sea creature, characteristically portrayed balancing on top of a sloping rock, appears to have just emerged from the water, an impression vividly evoked by the glossy, highly polished finish of the black marble. Unlike the few marble sculptors of his time who carved their works in stone directly to scale, Piccirilli modeled his subject first in clay and then enlarged it himself to its present size in the permanent medium. "Seal" was exhibited in the 1929 annual exhibition of the National Academy of Design, where it won the Ellin P. Speyer Memorial Prize for best representation of an animal." From the MET site
In a different image, we see the plaster model with the points mode to facilitate the copy of the original design onto black marble. This plaster is today in the office of Ilaria Zolesi, director of the Scuola di Marmo in Massa which I visited earlier this year. Finally, “Seal” is kept inside a windowed case at the MET where I had a chance to see it again last week.