Located opposite the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, this larger-than-life-sized bronze sculpture depicts Italian Renaissance author and poet Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). Artist Ettore Ximenes (1855–1926) sculpted the bronze figure and garland affixed to the monument’s lofty granite pedestal, which was designed by the architectural firm of Warren and Wetmore.
The New York branch of the Dante Alighieri Society had intended to erect a Dante monument on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Italian unification in 1912. Carlo Barsotti, editor of Il Progresso (the first Italian daily newspaper in the United States), urged subscribers to contribute towards the creation of the statue. He had already raised funds for four other New York City monuments honoring Italians: Giuseppe Garibaldi (1888) in Washington Square, Christopher Columbus (1892) in Columbus Circle, Giuseppe Verdi (1906) in Verdi Square, and Giovanni da Verrazano (1909) in Battery Park. Sculptor Ximenes, however, did not complete the statue of Dante until 1921. The monument was dedicated that year, the 600th anniversary of Dante’s death.
Dante was born to a noble Florentine family in 1265. After the death of his beloved Beatrice in 1290, he immersed himself in the study of philosophy and Provençal poetry. In 1302, Dante was banished from Florence for his allegiance with the White faction of the Guelph political party after the Black faction, members of a rival line of nobility, took over the city. While in exile, he composed The Divine Comedy, the first vernacular poetic masterpiece. It tells the tale of the poet’s journey from Hell to Heaven, presenting an immutable universe ordered by God. Through The Divine Comedy and his many other works, Dante established Tuscan as the literary language of Italy and gave rise to a great body of Renaissance literature.
In 1992 the Radisson Empire Hotel funded the conservation and repair of the sculpture and sponsored horticultural improvements and public programs in the park. In 2001 the monument was again refurbished by the City Parks Foundation Monuments Conservation Program.
Dante Alighieri Details
- Sculptor: Ettore Ximenes
- Architect: Warren and Wetmore
- Description: Standing figure (over life-size) on pedestal
- Materials: Figure and leaves--bronze; Pedestal--North Jay granite
- Dimensions: H: 25'7" W: 16'4" D: 16'4"
- Cast: ca 1921
- Dedicated: 1921
- Fabricator: Denigris Brothers (pedestal)
- Donor: Gift of Citizens of Italian Descent
- Inscription: Pedestal front: