The Museum’s annual Big Build festival returns on September 21. We have many exciting new activities this year, including an original children’s play written by our very own intern, Ben Lauer. Learn more about his play:
Since June, I’ve been writing and producing (and preparing to act in) a play for the National Building Museum’s Big Build festival! I had hoped I could write a play that touched on the built environment of our own Washington, D.C., so I began by seeking out stories of construction from some of the city’s monuments. I quickly discovered that while the statue of President Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial was designed by famous sculptor Daniel Chester French, it had been carved in marble by six Italian brothers, the Piccirilli Family.
(The American Magazine, 1930). From left to right: Getulio, Furio, Attilio, Ferruccio, Masaniello and Orazio. Getulio was the business head of the family and Attilio was the artistic head. Source.
The Piccirilli family immigrated to New York, NY in 1888. Guiseppe Piccirilli, the patriarch, had been a well regarded stone carver and sculptor in Tuscany, and his six sons, Ferrucio, Attilio, Furio, Masaniello, Orazio, and Getulio were trained in carving as well. When Barbara Piccirilli, their mother, became ill, the family was instructed to move out to the country; they moved to the Bronx, where in 1893 they established their studio. There, they carved statues for and consorted with famous sculptors like French, Paul Wayland Bartlett, John Q.A. Ward, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Former curator of American sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Albert Ten Eyck Gardner wrote, “The arrival of the Piccirilli family in New York may well mark an epoch in the history of American art.”
Attilio, the most famous of the brothers, was a talented sculptor in his own right and a close friend of New York luminaries like Mayor Fiorello Laguardia and tenor Enrico Caruso. It was the youngest brother, Getulio, who captured my imagination, though. I’ll be playing him in my play on September 21, as the impetuous baby of the family. In an attempt to assert himself as a sculptor, he sneaks into the studio and tries to carve French’s statue of Lincoln all by himself…before realizing that alone, he isn’t quite up to the task.
(From Daniel Chester French by Michael Richman). This is the five foot plaster model of the Lincoln that the brothers used in the early stages of the carving. French later replaced it with a seven foot model. A separate full- sized plaster model of the head was also provided by the sculptor. (The “backup” copy of that plaster head is in the collection of The New-York Historical Society) Source.
I hope you’ll join us at the the Big Build: A Hands-on Festival of Tools, Trucks, and Construction on Saturday, September 21st, to see my play and all of the other great exhibits and activities we have planned!