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Benedetto Civiletti (Palermo 1845-1899) was one of the great Sicilian sculptors of the late Nineteenth Century working in a realistic style, and a contemporary of the other well known sculptors Domenico Trentacoste and Ettore Ximenes.

Civiletti came from an artistic family. Two younger brothers, Pasquale and Salvatore worked in New York as sculptors also, and sculpted a white marble monument (25 feet) of Giuseppe Verdi in 1906 which still stands at West 73rd Street and Broadway. The town of Palermo (and other Sicilian towns as well) have a number of important sculptures by Benedetto Civiletti, the monument to King Vittorio Emanuele II and the horses and riders on the top of the magnificent Theater Politeama designed by the Architect Giuseppe Almeyda in 1867 and completed in 1891.

Palermo was the fourth largest city in Italy with over 250,000 inhabitants at the time, it had a stimulating intellectual life and no less than two theaters, which were built at the same time at opposite ends in the town center. The Theater Politeama was renamed in 1882 after Garibaldi, upon his death and it is the visual and topographic reference for the city of Palermo.

Benedetto Civiletti earlier had made an important sculpture of Canaris, a Greek national hero. It should come as no surprise that Civiletti participated in a national contest in 1884 for the creation of a monument to Garibaldi in Rome.

Palermo had strong ties with Garibaldi, the Italian national hero and freedom fighter. As a curiosity, to underscore the admiration for Garibaldi during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln offered Garibaldi a post as Brigadier General which he declined.

The above original photograph measures 38 x26 cms (15″ x 10″) and is perhaps the only visible remaining record of this important entry. This proposal for this sculpture was not executed. On the right side in the photograph behind the sculpture mock-up we barely notice a head and we assume it is of the sculptor himself helping to position the mock-up for the picture.

The proposal for the monument as seen in the photograph is described in great detail in a printed sheet attached to the back of the photograph together with the appropriate tax stamps. The front side also carries a photographer’s blind stamp. The photograph was taken by Giuseppe Incorpora one of Palermo’s leading photographers of that time. It  is hand addressed to the paper “L’Italia Artistica“, but we have not been able to find out if it was ever published in this paper.

Civiletti ‘s importance is underscored by an article about him in Harpers new monthly magazine issue 373, vol. 63, pages 82-87 of July 1881 written by Luigi Monti. (http// cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moasgml/moa-idx?notisid=ABK4014-0063-11).

We have owned this photograph for a few years, and I always wondered who won the competition and what was built in Rome to honor Italy’s national hero, Garibaldi. Of course you can probably find the answer surfing the web, but somehow I always felt that owning a photograph of that monument would complete our Garibaldi Collection. An impossible task one would think. And so did I. I forgot about Civiletti, until a few months ago when I entered a quaint antique shop in Connecticut.

After a bit of rummaging and browsing, here is what I found. The planned monument in Rome (it is visible in a central place in the city) for Garibaldi was sculpted by Emilio Galloni a Roman sculptor with good connections. We found this original large silver albumen print and it depicts the monument to Garibaldi as it was photographed after 1890 by the well known Roman photographer, A. Vasari with his blindstamp in the right bottom corner and listed as print number 863. Which version of the two proposals would you prefer?

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