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Finding Fidardo Landi: a quest to search for artwork of my great grandfather

January 12, 2011

(This is the beginning of multiple posts on the subject.)

Fidardo Landi with the clay rendition of Hiawatha, a portion of the Redfield Forman Monument in Syracuse, N.Y.

Legacy writing often begins with some research, a little information and the desire to tell a story before it can’t be told again. Everyone has a story. I am on a quest to find out as much information as I can on the public and private works of art created by my great grandfather Fidardo Landi, a sculptor.

I know there are works in private homes and collections all across the United States and Italy. I just want to know what happened to them. I’d like a photo. I’d like people to tell me how they enjoy their ownership of his work. I want to know your story with his art. If something is on public display, I’d like to see it. If you’re an owner or have more information, please contact me (marydanielsen@comcast.net)

My 89-year-old mother has been searching for answers most of her life. If she didn’t have amazing recall and the curiosity of a 100 cats, she might never have compiled as much information as she has. Thankfully I – her former journalist daughter – joined in on this treasure hunt.

Let me start with a little background.

My mother always said that the family didn’t talk much about my great grandfather’s professional background. The details of his work I long for – the who, what, when, where, how and how much – are missing. Those were different times. I suppose there was just too much grieving.

The professional background

Fidardo Landi came to the United States in 1900 as a sponsor of the marble firm Leland and Company to design and create a bas-relief portrait of President William McKinley Jr. The project unfortunately ended with the President’s assassination. Landi found other work immediately with, possibly with the Piccirilli Brothers translating statues from Daniel Chester French, Charles Henry Niehaus, Ritter and others into marble. Mr. Landi also had a professional connection to famed landscape architect Ferruccio Vitale of New York City.

He had a studio at 206 East 33rd Street in New York City. Upon first coming to the US, his family lived in Greenwich Village and later moved to the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.

We have no record of Landi’s professional career in Italy, although we know it existed.

The family history

Landi, was  born on June 18, 1865 in Carrara, Italy. His father Antonio Landi owned a lumber business in Carrara and his mother Violante DelNero was from the area.

He married Louisa Biggi of Carrara, the daughter of sculptor Alessandro Biggi, and had two children, Achille (1894-1969) and Alessandra (1895-1987).

By way of background, Mr. Biggi was Fidardo’s professor, mayor of Carrara and brother of Giuseppe Biggi, an ornamental sculptor. Landi’s father-in-law was the dean of the School of Sculpture and owned marble quarries in Querceta, Italy. This must have given him opportunities for commissions.

It was well known that he did subcontracting work for other sculptors. In family papers he noted doing work for Daniel Chester French on pieces that grace the White House. Years ago my mother checked with the historians there to confirm that subcontractors were used, but they were not listed by name.

He was skilled at portraying young children and adolescent boy and girls, especially in garden fountains and cemeteries.

Fountain by Fidardo Landi for the H.W. Walker Estate in Great Barrington. The fountain and stairs were sold in 1991 by the religious organization that bought the old estate. It's whereabouts are unknown.

Patrons: included Issak Guggenheim in Port Washington, N.Y.; H.W. Walker, Great Barrington, Mass; city of Cleveland, Ohio.

Awards: 1881-82, winner of Premio d’incoraggiamento (age 16); 1884-85, winner Pensionato di Roma fellowship for study at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Roma. Winning sculpture was Ishmael in the Desert (age 19); Second prize for Sinking of the Maine. Competition Havana, Cuba.

Works: 1885 Rome, Zachary Gives Name of John to his Son, completed while “Pensionato” in Rome. 1908, Syracuse, N.Y., Redfield Forman Monument (also known as the Haiawatha Monument) at Foreman Square Park. Granite and bronze.

1917 Roman Bronze Works bills; bronze fountain statue of a girl (Statue named “Daisy”); wall fountain of two little sirens with the face of a mask (Triton) in the middle, spouting water; fishing boy holding pail in bronze; other fishing boys (Cleveland)

(Note: The City of Syracuse has just completed a 2 ½ year restoration of the Redfield Forman Monument with sculptress Sharon BuMann. This will be written about in later blog posts. Also the family is trying to determine the exact number of Daisy statues that were created. We believe as many as five may have been cast. Some were working water fountains.)

References: Family archives of Nina Corrine Camuti Danielsen and the Carrara Connection.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura Abadie, CPF permalink
    April 7, 2011 6:03 pm

    Dear Mary ~

    Your quest to trace your ancestors journey is so very intriquing! Do you know who inspired him to take up this profession? Perhaps Bernini?
    The pieces shown are beautiful in their depiction of the human form.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    • April 7, 2011 7:26 pm

      Laura,

      Thank you for your glowing comments. My great grandfather Fidardo Landi was a student of Antonio Biggi, another well-known sculptor in Cararra, who was also mayor of Cararra and a professor at the school of art there. Fidardo met and married Anthonio’s daughter Louisa, who was the oldest of eight children. He seemed to be greatly influenced by Antonio’s work, but he also traveled to Florence on a scholarship as a young man. I believe that education also influenced his work.

      I am trying to track down and photograph his work.

      Best,
      Mary

  2. October 19, 2012 7:00 pm

    I had to check out your blog after talking to you today. It was very nice meeting you today–Scott Holl, St. Louis County Library

  3. Vicki permalink
    February 1, 2013 10:06 pm

    HI Mary,
    My famous Uncle..Robert Goodman..left my mother a Landi from 1917 and I have
    been in possession of it for years…It is gorgeous…I never knew the history!!! Very
    exciting…My Uncle if you look up was famous Mens Illustrator for Esquire Magazine
    in the 1930’s and 1940/s….Vicki

  4. Ricardo J. Stella permalink
    February 14, 2013 1:06 am

    Alessandro Biggi made a sculture in a church in Buenos Aires. I am trying to find the name of that church, I have a photography of the sculpture (Jesus with two children).
    He also madea monument in marble of Garibaldi that is in the City of Rosario in Argentina and a statue of Nicolas Avellaneda, an ex president of Argentina.
    Riccardo Stella r1k5tella@hotmail.com

    • February 14, 2013 1:29 pm

      Ricardo,

      Thank you for finding me. If you find that church would you take several photos of it from all angles for me. We have been trying to find that statues for many years. It would fulfill a lifelong dream of mine. Also, do you know if the other two statues still exist?

      Best,
      Mary

  5. May 20, 2013 6:45 pm

    Hi Mary – I just published a post about a mausoleum in Recoleta Cemetery (Buenos Aires) that has several sculptures by Alessandro Biggi. I can send you more photos if you like… I happened upon your blog while searching for info about Biggi. Hopefully your family history can be reconstructed. If you need anything, just let me know! http://www.recoletacemetery.com/?p=4221

    • May 20, 2013 8:23 pm

      Robert, This is amazing. Thank you so much. I would love it if you could send me some additional photos. I have so little information about Alessandro Biggi’s artwork that got shipped from Italy. Your research is greatly appreciated. This is delightful!

      • May 21, 2013 8:03 pm

        I’d be happy to send you some more photos. There is at least one more work by Biggi in Recoleta Cemetery plus a very big monument in the city of Rosario. If you could send your email address to me, I’ll get the photos to you. Saludos!

  6. May 22, 2013 12:03 am

    Robert, Thank you. I recently discovered information about the statue in Rosario. I am also looking for a statue of Christ with 3 small children at his feet. Send me your email address and I will send you a copy of it, just in case you come across it in your travels. I’m not sure when it was sculpted, but I always heard in the family that it was shipped to your area. I am looking forward to seeing more of your photos. You can send them to marydanielsen@comcast.net. Thank you. Mary

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