Luigi Persico


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(1791–1860). Sculptor and painter. Known particularly for neoclassical embellishments to the U.S. Capitol, he also executed a number of important portrait busts. Born in Naples, he emigrated to the United States in 1818. In Philadelphia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania he painted portraits and taught drawing, while also pursuing sculptural commissions. In 1825 he settled in Washington, D.C., and began work on three over-life-size allegorical figures for the Capitol's east pediment. Symbolizing Genius of America (1825–28; original sandstone sculptures replaced with marble copies in 1959–60), classically robed females personify the nation flanked by Justice and Hope. In 1834 Persico's marble figures of Peace and War (U.S. Capitol, in storage, replaced by copies in the 1960s) were installed in niches on the east facade, while a decade later his marble Discovery of America (U.S. Capitol, in storage, 1837–44) was placed beside the east staircase. It depicts a triumphant Columbus dominating, both visually and thematically, a nearly naked Indian woman who turns to flee. Although the sculpture supported popular mid-nineteenth-century expansionist ideology, it led to no further federal commissions for the artist, in part because nationalistic interests by this time favored American artists. Persico worked again in Philadelphia and in Boston before leaving the United States in 1855. He died in Marseilles. His brother, painter Gennaro Persico (?–c. 1859), also born in Naples, worked principally as a portrait and miniature painter. After his arrival in the United States around 1820, he spent about a decade in Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania locations before settling in Richmond, Virginia. In the early 1840s he left for Naples but about ten years later was back in Richmond. He is thought to have died at sea.

From The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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