This memorial, with its larger than life, half-clothed allegorical male figure, was dedicated in 1924. Honoring those from the local community who served their country during World War I in 1917-1918, the statue was made by Italian-American sculptor Pietro Montana (1890–1978).
Montana was born in Alcamo, Italy on June 29, 1890. His family moved to the United States when he was a youth, and settled in Brooklyn. Montana studied at the Cooper Union Art School for six years, graduating in 1915, and received additional instruction at the Mechanics Institute. In the early 1920s, Montana made a name for himself by sculpting three public monuments in Brooklyn: Freedom Square Memorial (1921), Bushwick-Ridgewood Memorial (1921) in Heisser Square, and Dawn of Glory.
A year after completing this statue, Montana finished a bronze tablet with relief portraits of authors Washington Irving (1783–1859) and Mark Twain (1835–1910), which today is affixed to the north wall of 11 Fifth Avenue (the Brevoort) at the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 9th Street. Montana also created a “doughboy”, or war hero, figure for East Providence, Rhode Island, a portrait entitled Mother Davison for Governors Island, and a relief plaque of Catherine Carroll installed at Metropolitan Pool in Brooklyn. In the mid-1920s, with the help of the fraternal organization, Ordine Figli D’Italia, Montana helped form a society of Italian-American artists, which launched the Leonardo da Vinci School of Art on the Bowery.
Over the years, Montana had studios at several locations in lower Manhattan and mid-town, while residing in a three-family home he owned on Kossuth Place in Brooklyn. In his long career he received numerous public and private commissions, including a bust of the inventor Marconi for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. He was affiliated with many arts organizations, including the National Sculpture Society, the Hudson Valley Art Association, and the National Academy of Design. In 1962, when the building where he then lived at 58 West 57th Street in Manhattan was slated for demolition, Montana and his wife Alfrida Kramer returned to his native Italy, where he lived and worked until his death in 1978.
For the creation of this Highland Park memorial, local prominent citizens and veterans groups enlisted Montana in 1919. He is reported to have used as his model the famous body-builder Charles Atlas (1894–1972). The sensual sculpture depicts a male with face turned skyward in the process of disrobing, giving the illusion that the statue is unveiling itself. It is the physical embodiment of the spirit of those who served, and the glory in the hereafter. The sculpture’s actual unveiling took place on July 13, 1924, and was witnessed by a reported 10,000 people, with a salute from the 106th Infantry. The sculpture underwent renovation in 1936, and again in the summer of 2001, when it was repatined, waxed, and the base was cleaned.
Montana was an outspoken advocate for the symbolic power of traditional figurative sculpture. In an address before the Hudson Valley Association he commented, “My wish has been to send light into the darkness of men’s hearts, and to be the servant of a noble purpose . . . art is not a vague production, transitory and isolated, but a power, which must be directed toward the refinement and improvement of the human soul.” In Dawn of Glory, Montana fulfills this expectation.
Dawn of Glory Details
- Sculptor: Pietro Montana
- Description: Standing male figure (heroic scale) with integral plinth on pedestal raised on three steps, tablet
- Materials: Figure--bronze; Pedestal--Deer Isle granite
- Dimensions: Figure H: 10'; Pedestal H: 5' W: 12' D: 11'; Tablet H: 2'4" W: 2'6"
- Cast: 1924
- Dedicated: July 13, 1924
- Foundry: American Art Foundry, New York
- Donor: Kings County Chapter of the American Legion.
- Inscription: IN HONOR / OF THOSE / WHO FOUGHT FOR / OUR COUNTRY / 1917-1918
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