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 E. Luigi Persico  (1791 - 1860)

About: E. Luigi Persico
 

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/District Of Columbia / France/Italy      Known for: sculpture, often portrait

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Luigi Persico is primarily known as E. Luigi Persico

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Luigi Persico, born in Naples, Italy in 1791, came to America in 1818. For several years, he worked in Lancaster, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, sustaining himself as an artist by teaching drawing and painting miniatures. He came to public attention when his bust of the Marquis de Lafayette was exhibited, probably in 1824, when the Frenchman made a farewell tour of America. Taking advantage of his newly-won acclaim, Persico moved to Washington, D.C. in 1825 where he quickly made a number of political friends, including President John Quincy Adams, of whom he executed a portrait bust about 1825.

One of President Adam's last official acts was to sign the contract authorizing Persico to create colossal statues of "War" and "Peace" for the niches under the east portico of the U.S. Capitol. These allegorical figures (now in storage) were executed between 1829 and 1835. In addition, Persico received the commission to do the pedimental sculptures for the east front ("The Genius of America," 1825-28). For the great stairs, the sculptor chose as his subject the discovery of America and showed Columbus striding forth holding an orb, flanked by a crouching, seminude Indian maiden.

"The Discovery" (1844), which was something less than a complete artistic success, has also been removed from its former position and placed in storage. These more ambitious sculptural projects for the Capitol, in the Neo-Classical style, were not as well conceived as Persico's portrait busts, and they drew a barrage of criticism. Nevertheless, it must be said in the sculptor's defense that he had to contend with, and was ultimately defeated by, three adverse factors in his adopted culture: a lack of understanding of the humanist tradition in art, a taste for scurrilous criticism, and xenophobia.

When "The Discovery" was unveiled in 1844, critical comment was so unfavorable that Persico lost any chance of receiving other government commissions. Furthermore, several congressmen thought it unjust that a foreigner should receive government commissions when American sculptors were at hand to do the work. Although Persico continued to exhibit at the Boston Athenaeum and the Artists' Fund Society of Philadelphia until 1855, he finally decided to return to Europe.

He died in Marseilles, France in 1860.

Source: Matthew Baigell, "Dictionary of American Artists"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"


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