Christopher Columbus Memorial

Artist:Russo, Gaetano

With: Leigh, Douglas, designer and Fonderia Nelli, founder

Status: In Situ

Title: Christopher Columbus Memorial (sculpture)

Dates: 1892. Dedicated Oct. 12, 1892. Rededicated June 1991. 

Medium: Statue of Columbus and allegorical figures: Carrara marble; Column: granite; Reliefs: bronze.

Dimensions: Overall: approx. 77 ft. 4 in. x 35 ft. x 35 ft.; Column: approx. H. 26 ft.; Statue: approx. H. 13 ft. 4 in.; Each relief: approx. 2 x 6 ft. Pedestal H: 28′

Inscription: (On bronze reliefs on base:) Russo. Invento E Sculpi Roma 1894/ Fond/Nelli/Roma (On base:) High Up On A Shaft/A Christoforo Colombo (West side of base:) A/Christoforo Colombo/Gl’ Italiani Residenti In America/Irriso Prima/Minacciato Durante Il Viaggio/Ancatenato Dopo/Sapendo Esser Generoso Quanto Oppresso/Donava Un Mondo As Mondo/La Gioia E La Gloria/Non Ebbero Mai Piu Sollenne Grido/Di Quello Che Risuono In Vista/Della Prima Isola Americana/Terre! Terra!/Nel 12 Ottobre 1892/Quarto Centenario/Della Scoperta D’America/A Imperitura Memoria (On the east side of base:) To/Christopher Columbus/The Italians Resident In Ameria/Scoffed At Before,/During The Voyage, Menaced,/After It, Chained, /As Generous As Oppressed,/To The World He Gave A World./Joy And Glory/Never Uttered A more Thrilling Call/Than That Which Resounded From The Conquered Ocean/In Sight Of The First American Island/Land! Land!/Of The XII Of October MDCCCXCII/The Fourth Centenary Of The Discovery Of America/In Imperishable Remembrance (On the west side of base:) Per iniziativa/del progresso Italo Americano/II primo giornale Italiano quotidiano/negli Stati Uniti/Cav. Carlo Barsotti Editora e Proprietario signed Founder’s mark appears.

Description: A column surmounted by a statue of Columbus. On the south side of the base is a youth with wings examining a globe, symbolizing the Genius of Discovery. On the base are two reliefs tablets. One depicts Columbus putting ashore and giving thanks to God while natives peer from behind foliage. The other depicts the Nina, Pinta, and, Santa Maria setting sail from Spain. The column itself is ornamented with three pairs of bronze rostra, beak-like prows of ancient ships. The base is surrounded by fountains of splashing water. Standing figure (colossal scale) on rostral column on pedestal, base, and plinth; pedestal figure of a winged youth examining a globe; two bas-reliefs on base.

Owner: Administered by City of New York, Department of Parks & Recreation, New York, New York

Located Columbus Circle, Eighth Avenue & 59th Street, New York, New York

Donor: Italian Americans led by Carlo Barsotti, publisher, Il Progresso Italo Americano

Remarks: The monument was a gift of the Italian-Americans funded through public subscription organized by Carolo Barssotti, editor of Il Progresso. In 1960, Douglas Leigh designed fountain water displays with leaping jets of water patterned on fountains in Rome. The Delacorte Foundation presented the fountains to the city and maintains them. The monument was restored in 1991 and the Adopt-A-Monument Program funded the restoration. New York City’s most well-known monument to Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), the work was intended to serve as a symbol of Italian-American Pride at the turn of the 20th century at a moment when members of that community wanted to see themselves better represented in public spaces. Since the 1970s, however, the legacy of Columbus has faced increased scrutiny from scholars and the general public, leading many monuments in municipalities to be removed or recontextualized in recent years, though this one remains in Columbus Circle.

References: Art Commission of the City of New York, “Catalogue of Works Belonging to the City of New York,” vol. I pg. 164.

Gayle, Margot & Michele Cohen, “Guide to Manhattan’s Outdoor Sculpture,” New York: Prentice Hall, 1988, pg. 263-264.

National Park Service, American Monuments and Outdoor Sculpture Database, NY5017, 1989.

Bishara, Hakim, “The Contentious History of NYC’s Columbus Monuments,” Hyperallergic, June 17, 2020.


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