Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Giovanni da Verrazzano: OMOM Essay 3

The most challenging part of researching this sculpture was deciphering the inscription, for which credit goes to my nephew's high-school Italian teacher. Given the inscription, it’s clear that Verrazzano and his allegorical companion are not merely commemorative but polemical. That's the focus of "About the Sculpture." "About the Subject" discusses Verrazzano's voyage to North America, his discovery of New York Harbor, and New York's development as a commercial center.

Verrazzano is the second of ten sculptures in in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan that also appeared in Forgotten Delights: The Producers. FDP has more details on Verrazzano's voyage and a full transcription of the Italian and English inscriptions.

After I'd finished the manuscript of Outdoor Monuments I went to Battery Park to take a better photo of Verrazzano. To my dismay, the monument had disappeared: not even the base was left. Frantic emails to Parks Department officials brought the news that it had been removed for cleaning and will reappear several years from now, when renovations on the subways beneath the park are completed. Since it's number 3 of 54 essays, removing it would have required not only renumbering the titles of all the subsequent essays, but correcting every single cross-reference as well - and there are a lot of cross-references. I opted to leave Verrazzano in the book and use a photo from the Parks Department's Photo Archives. The photo that appears above was taken several years ago, before the sculpture was removed for cleaning.


jblakeslee said...

I just found out about this statue while looking through old photographs of Battery Park in the Library of Congress collection. The statue looked a bit different at its dedication (October 7, 1909).

Dianne Durante said...

The base was originally marble, which apparently deteriorated badly over the next few decades - New York winters and New York air quality are not kind to soft stone. Eventually the lower edge of Verrazzano's cloak was lopped off and the base was replaced with granite, which is much more durable; unfortunately, it's difficult to make out the inscription because of the flecks in the granite. I'm looking forward to seeing Verrazzano back in place - I wonder if the base has been changed yet again?