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Who is Who in Piccirilli's Roman Tradition

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

A recent reply by Carmen Rusconi to my latest post merits special attention due to the extraordinary findings she contributes to the current research on the Piccirilli Brothers. I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Carmen in Massa during my last visit, and we have been collaborating ever since on "The Italian Factor" and "The Piccirilli Project.” Now Carmen helps us define Who is Who in Piccirilli's Roman Tradition.

From The Italian Factor
A Taste of Rome in New York City | Atlantic, USS Maine Memorial

In this recent exchange, the historian and genealogist demonstrated how well both practices can complement each other. She provided not only the full names of the children of Giuseppe and Barbara Piccirilli but also the significance of each name in Roman history.

I've suspected that the consistent mention of their origin as Massa-Carrara in most references to the Piccirilli obscured the fact that they were intrinsically Roman.

From The Italian Factor
The Spirit of Youth | A Taste of Rome in Lexington, VA

Who is Who in Piccirilli's Roman Tradition

Translated and adapted from my correspondence with Carmen Rusconi

From The Italian Factor
The Piccirilli “Roman" Brotherhood

Truly remarkable sculptural groups! The Roman influence on sculpture is quite evident throughout the 1800s and the early 1900s, blending seamlessly with the cultural and representative needs of the emerging American society.

The Piccirilli brothers were not exempt from this influence. It's evident in the nostalgia of both conscious and unconscious origin. Giuseppe, the family patriarch, carried with him the pride of his ancestral Rome. This pride is reflected in the names he chose for his children, which indicate that Giuseppe was familiar with and deeply admired the myths of antiquity and the grandeur of Roman history.

The firstborn, Ferruccio (June 6, 1864), was named Pilade Attilio Ferruccio. 'Pilade' is a character from Greek tragedy, a cousin of Orestes. The second son, Attilio (May 14, 1866), was Giuseppe Attilio Regolo, a tribute to Marco Attilio Regolo, the Roman hero of the Punic Wars. Furio (March 27, 1868), the third son, was named Furio Camillo Tommaso Enrico; Furio Camillo is believed to have been the second founder of Rome, serving as a general and dictator. The fourth, Massanielo Daniele Giuseppe (May 30, 1870), was named in honor of a Neapolitan fisherman and leader of the revolt against Habsburg rule in Naples in 1647.

From The Italian Factor
Portrait of Masaniello

Orazio Adriano Giuseppe (June 21, 1872) was named after the poet and the art-loving Emperor Adriano. Getulio (October 27, 1874), was named Settimio Severo Ugolino. 'Getulio,' the name by which we recognize him today, was an affectionate family nickname derived from the Romanized word for a Berber settlement in the Atlas Mountains on the Sahara's edge, while Settimio Severo was a nod to another Roman emperor. As for Ugolino, he's a notable character from Dante's Divine Comedy. Jean Baptiste Carpeaux’s marble sculpture depicting Ugolino and his sons is housed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It is speculative, but I theorize that Giuseppe might have met Jean Baptiste Carpeaux in Rome and was so inspired by the artwork that he named his youngest son after Ugolino. Lastly, Iole Ottavia Ida (June 26, 1885) was named after Iole from Greek mythology and Ottavia, the sister of Augustus and wife of Antony.

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The break with traditions of naming children - -sons in particular -- with family names is really quite remarkable, I think. Only Giuseppe's name remains prominent. Using historical names almost certainly a secular alternative. Using Roman historical-based names also a departure (especially for a family rooted in Tuscana in the age of the Risorgimento) seems a political statement.

Nice find!!


So interesting . Passed it on to the head of the local Italian cultural society. don

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Thank you!

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