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Giovanni da Verrazzano
This heroic sculpture of Italian explorer and navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano (c. 1485-1528) is by Ettore Ximenes (1855–1926) and was dedicated October 9, 1909.
Verrazzano, the son of a noble family, was born at the Castello Verrazzano in Greve near Florence, Italy. In his early 20s he moved to Dieppe to start a maritime career, and sailed on behalf of the French monarchy. In 1523, with the support of the French king Francois I, as well as Florentine bankers, Verrazzano set sail on the ship Dauphine in search of a passage to the Pacific Ocean and the Far East.
On this voyage, Verrazzano explored the coast line now comprising the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada, and, in 1524, became the first European known to have entered New York Bay. On sighting the mouth of the harbor, he later described “a very agreeable site located between two hills between which flowed to the sea a very great river.” Verrazzano wrote a report based on his travels to the New World. This document, called the Cellere Codes (a copy of which is located in the Morgan Library in New York City) later served to instruct explorers such as Henry Hudson.
A second voyage from Dieppe in 1527 again failed to yield a northwest passage, and after an insurrection by his crew, and a detour to Brazil, Verrazzano returned to France with a valuable cargo of longwood. In 1528 Verrazzano embarked on a third voyage, in which he explored the Florida coast, the Bahamas and Lower Antilles. The life of the explorer was cut short when upon setting foot on one of the islands he was immediately attacked and killed by the native people.
At the time of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909, the Italian community was mobilized by Carlo Barsotti, the editor of the Italian language newspaper Il Progresso, to contribute funds toward the creation of this statue. The larger than life bronze bust of the proud explorer was stationed on an elaborate granite pedestal with side volutes, with a bronze female allegorical figure representing discovery installed on the façade. Sculptor Ximenes later modeled a statue of Dante, located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and dedicated in 1921.
Giovanni da Verrazzano Details
- Location: North entrance pathway
- Sculptor: Ettore Ximenes
- Description: Elevated male half figure and standing female figure (both heroic scale) on pedestal consisting of two perpendicular slabs
- Materials: Bronze, Deer Isle granite
- Dimensions: half figure h 5' (?); standing figure h 9'; original total h 27' x w 11'6" x d 11'6"
- Cast: 1909
- Dedicated: October 6, 1909
- Foundry: Roman Bronze Works
- Donor: Charles Barsotti organized public subscription; work donated by artist
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