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Situated in and around Central Park of New York City is a world class collection of sculpture that were it anywhere else it would be celebrated. Here it is largely overlooked and ignored, until one sees them in person and realizes something major is here. Many are in poor condition, exposed to the elements, but the collection is so large it is still a pleasure to take in. Hopefully the local egomaniacs will fund proper conservation of certain endangered landmarks like the Egyptiann Obelisk on the west side of the Met. For ones viewing pleasure as a mobile application a mobile guide from the iTours prototype is available towards the bottom of this article.

01St GaudensAugustus Saint Gaudens (1847-1907), Equestrian Statue of Gen. Sherman with Victory, unveiled 1903, Grand Army Plaza

Located on the Fifth Avenue side of Central Park the Grand Army Plaza has as its centerpiece one of the most famous statues in New York City as its centerpiece. Built and designed by Augustus Saint Gaudens (1847-1907), Equestrian Statue of Gen. Sherman with Victory, appeared at the 1900 Paris Exposition where it was awarded Grand Prix, or best in show. General Sherman was one of the most famous leaders of the Civil War generation, with his march to the sea in late 1864 an epic achievement for speed and efficiency in operating behind enemy lines. For all of its detractors Sherman’s United States’ Army of the West liberated more slaves from bondage than any other in American history.

Augustus St. Gaudens modeled a bust after the general in 1892 when the General had retired to New York City. St. Gaudens completed this work as he was slowly dying of cancer. After winning the Grand Prix in Paris in 1900, the statue found its way back to New York City and the Grand Army Plaza where it has been on display in one spot or another since 1903. In the early 1990’s it was regilded with gold leaf with numerous irate letters of protest about the bright patina making their way to every editorial page in the city, but the urban atmosphere of New York had the last word and when last seen the patina had faded to a most respectable antique finish.

02Illava K 7thRKarl Illava (1896-1954), 107th Regiment Memorial (note the 107th was a WWI successor to the Civil War 7th. Gifted from the 7th-107th, and Illava was a Sergeant in the 107th).

03DCF RMHuntDaniel Chester French (1850-1931), Richard Morris Hunt (1827-1895) memorial, Architecture, Painting& Sculpture, Richard Morris Hunt an American architect of great prominence whose defining signature emulated the French Beaux-Arts style. Several blocks uptown, one can see a fine example of his artistic magnitude in the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

04maineAttilio Piccirilli (166-1945), Maine Memorial West 59th Street, Columbus Circle, built by William Randolph Hearst with the architect being Harold Van Buren Magonigle a former student/employee/disciple of McKim Meade and White. The Piccirilli’s often subcontracted for artists like Daniel Chester French with the colossal example at the Lincoln memorial being the largest example of such cooperation

Located on Columbus Circle at the Merchants Gate is the Maine Memorial Monument, the pylon designed by Harold Van Buren Magonigle, a disciple of McKim Meade and White, and the sculpture carved by Attillio Piccirilli (1866-1945), an Italian immigrant better known for his work on the colossal Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC. Piccirilli worked in a studio with his brothers in the south Bronx where they produced some of the finest commissioned statuary this country has ever seen from 1890 up until his death in 1946. Loosely described as American Renaissance in style, this neoclassical composition was meant to recall the glory of the Roman Empire, a worthy role model as the young United States assumed the global stage in the early 20th century.

The Maine was sunk by accident or intent, but in any case it remained sufficient cause célèbre that after the War with Spain concluded, William Randolph Hearst led the subscription for the Memorial to be erected at the Merchant’s Gate on the southwest corner of Central Park. As an outrageous publisher, Hearst was frequently at odds with the Tamany Hall political machine of the era, so the Monument was not installed until a friendlier Mayor was finally elected in 1914, more than ten years after Piccirilli completed the project. Carved from Tennessee limestone marble, the memorial has a gilded depiction of Columbia triumphant atop the pylon made from cannons salvaged from the actual ship and a series of ten heroic figures around the base. Located north and south are human personifications of the young Atlantic and elder Pacific Oceans. The craggy image of the bearded Pacific figure recalls the mannerist style and anatomic detail of Michelangelo’s work, and as such recall Piccirilli’s art student days in Rome. Facing Columbus Circle is a youth image of victory atop the bow of a ship with allusions to Fortitude, Peace and Courage. On the other side facing the park is a blind figure holding the scales of Justice while a scribe next her takes notes for History.

05Picc A Maine 2Columbia Attilio Piccirilli (1866-1945), Maine Memorial West 59th Street, top of pylon, gilded bronze

06Picc A Maine 3pylonbowAttilio Piccirilli (1866-1945), Maine Memorial West 59th Street, Bow figures, carved tennesee limestone

07Picc A MaineAtlanticAttilio Piccirilli (1866-1945), Maine Memorial West 59th Street, Atlantic Ocean

08Picc A MainepacificAttilio Piccirilli (1866-1945), Maine Memorial West 59th Street, Pacific Ocean,

09MacDonald James FHG James Wilson Alexander MacDonald (1824-1908), Fitz Greene Halleck (1790-1867, Literary Walk, unveiled in 1877 Primarily a sculptor but also a painter of landscapes and portraits, James Wilson MacDonald was described as "a colorful figure in New York art circles. . .who wrote art criticism and lectured on anatomy and ancient monuments.

10Ward JQA IndianJohn Quincy Adams Ward (1830-1910), The Indian Hunter, Located west side, but Central 66th Street, north of Poet's Walk, just off of Central Park Drive

11Ward JQA PilgrimsJohn Quincy Adams Ward (1830-1910), Pilgrim Fathers, On the occasion of the New England Society’s 75th year, the association commissioned the statue to honor the early colonists. The pilgrim grasps the muzzle of a flintlock musket in his right hand. The pedestal comprises four bas-reliefs depicting Crossbow and Arrows, the ship Mayflower, Commerce, and Bible and Sword. The inscription on the pedestal reads “To commemorate the Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers on Plymouth Rock: December 21, 1620.” The statue stands at the bottom of Pilgrim Hill

12a DSC 0161 bearsPaul Manship (185-1966), "Bears," located at East 79th Street by the Met, opposite 980 Fifth Avenue. This is another cast of an edition which included one that was purchased by Alice Walton for the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AS


13East f cnEast Face, Egyptian Obelisk, Cleopatra's Needle, erected 1450 BC, transported, unveiled 1881, heavily pitted by acid rain and urban pollution, up near the Met, 81st Street. Its declining condition might make this newsworthy. It certainly demonstrates the likely fate of the Elgin marbles were they returned to dysfunctional and bankrupt Greece.

14South f cnSouth Face, Egyptian Obelisk, Cleopatra's Needle, heavily pitted by acid rain and urban pollution, up near the Met, East side, 81st Street. Its declining condition on the south face makes a sad point.

15West f cnWest face of the, Egyptian Obelisk, Cleopatra's Needle, heavily pitted by acid rain and urban pollution, up near the Met, East side, 81st Street. Its' sheer blank declined condition on this west face makes a statement

16North f cnNorth Face, Egyptian Obelisk, Cleopatra's Needle, erected 1450 BC, transported, unveiled 1881, The North and East sides appear to be in the best condition

Visiting restorer Massoud Shiraz points out the weathered face of the west and south sides that the acid rain has corroded. 

 Shiraz Notices limestone erosion and replacement.

 17 DSC 0157Bessie Potter Vonnoh (187-1955), Burnett Memorial Fountain, 1936, East 104th Street by Museum of the City of New York and el Museo del Bario

18 DSC 0155 schottWalter Schott (1861-1938), Dancing Maidens. East 105th Street, Untermeyer Fountain, gift of the Untermeyers in 1947 

 Mobile Guide to area and nearby monuments:

KMZ for Apple iPhones and KML for Android

19x fbuploadAttilio Piccirilli (1866-1945), NYFD Fireman's Memorial: "To the men of the Fire Department of the City of New York, who died at the Call of Duty, Soldiers in a war that never ends, this memorial dedicated by a grateful city." Erected MCMXII

20x grantstombGeneral Grant, National Memorial 122nd Street and Riverside Drive New York City, USA Administered by the United States National Park Service

Massoud Shiraz Art Consulting and Restoration:

Charlotte, NC


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You may also like to read:

*  Fine Art Restoration and Conservation: In Conversation with Massoud Shiraz

*  Fine Art Restoration and Conservation: In Conversation with Simon Gillespie

*  Dealers Behaving Badly


About the Author

Robert Alexander Boyle

Robert Alexander Boyle

 Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, CT where he majored in History. Prior to graduation he co-authored the seminal book Acid Rain in 1983. Alex has worked for the Metropo...