"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Dante Alighieri

This bronze statue of Dante Alighieri by Ettore Ximenes stands in Meridian Hill Park, Washington, DC. A nearby historical marker says this of the statue.
On December 1, 1921, a statue of Dante Alighieri, author of the epic poem, The Divine Comedy, was dedicated in the park's Italian hillside garden area on the 600th anniversary of the poet's birth. The statue was a gift of Carlo Barsotti editor of an Italian American newspaper, in the name of all immigrants from Italy. The bronze figure is a replica of the original, unveiled in New York City that same year and sculpted by Ettore Ximenes of Rome.

This photo of Minnie Elizabeth Sherrill and Clarence Caldwell Sherrill at the unveiling of the statue in Meridian Hill Park appeared in many contemporary newspapers. The caption below is from the The Ward County Independent, Minot, N.D. January 12, 1922. The photo is in the Library of Congress.

The unveiling of the monument to Dante Alighieri in Meridian Hill park, Washington, was marked by the presence of President Harding, the Italian-ambassador and several hundred Italians from Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities. The monument is the work of Ettore Ximenes and Whitney Warren, and was presented to the city by Chevalier Carlo Barsotti, editor of Il Progresso Italo-Americano, in behalf of the Italians of the United States. The two children in the foreground, who unveiled the statue, are Minnie and Caldwell Sherrill, children of Colonel Sherrill military aide to the President.

Although neither President nor Mrs. Harding spoke at the dedication, French ambassador, M. Viviani made a speech reputed to have saved the delicate post-war relationship between France and Italy. At the ongoing arms limitation talks, the Italians were rumored to have been insulted by the French.  Ambassador Viviani's speech praising Italy healed the breech. See Italy and France Unite Under Dante and Eloquence to the Rescue which appeared in the Washington Post on December 2nd and 3rd respectively.  

This statue was in place well before Meridian Hill park was finished. In this photo from a nearby historical marker, workers are laying the walkway leading to the monument while the statue stands in the background.

Though funds to build the park were slow in coming, designers scrambled to stay ahead of construction crews. Here, the pathway leading to Dante, already installed in the Hillside Gardens, is formed and poured. 
And here, two years after the unveiling, Salvatore M. Pino, representing Il Progresso Italo-Americano, urges President Coolidge to expedite the construction of the lower portion of Meridian Hill park. That's the White House in the background.  (LOC photo)

Dante Alighieri by Gustave Doré 1860

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