Giovanni da Verrazzano

  • Sculptor: Ettore Ximenes
  • Dedicated: 1909
  • Medium and size: Overall about 22 feet. Bronze bust (5 feet), bronze allegorical figure (9 feet). When last on public view, it had a later granite base.
  • Location: Battery Park (currently in storage pending completion of the work on the South Street subway station)
  • Subway: 1, 4 or 5 to Bowling Green


Verrazzano’s First Impression of New York Harbor

Verrazzano left an account of his first impression of New York Harbor, in 1524:

We found a very pleasant place, situated amongst certain little steep hills; from amidst the which hills there ran down into the sea a great stream of water, which within the mouth was very deep, and from the sea to the mouth of same, with the tide, which we found to rise 8 foot, any great vessel laden may pass up. ... The people are almost like unto the others, and clad with feathers of fowls of divers colors. They came towards us very cheerfully, making great shouts of admiration, showing us where we might come to land most safely with our boat. ... [A] contrary flaw of the wind coming from the sea, we were enforced to return to our ship, leaving this land, to our great discontentment for the great commodity and pleasantness thereof, which we suppose is not without some riches, all the hills showing mineral matters in them. –Verrazzano, quoted in Samuel Eliot Morison, The Great Explorers (1978), p. 153

Munster map 1540

Above: Munster’s map of the Americas, from the 1540 edition of Ptolemy’s Geography, includes the “inland sea” that Verrazzano believed he had glimpsed on the other side of the Outer Banks, off the coast of North Carolina.

Vanishing Verrazzano

By 2000, Verrazzano and his polemical sidekick were badly in need of cleaning and conservation, as you may have noticed in the photos used in this episode. When the major renovation of the South Ferry subway station in Battery Park was undertaken in 2005, Verrazzano was removed for cleaning. According to a source at the Battery Park Conservancy several years ago, it will remain in storage until the subway work is done. Verrazzano has already lost its original base and part of Verrazzano’s cloak: we hope the current restorers have been kinder than the last set.

Henry Hudson Statue

Hudson Fulton 

Above: Poster celebrating the 300th anniversary of Hudson’s arrival in New York Harbor on the Half Moon (shown in the foreground), and the 100th anniversary of the first run of Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat, more often known as the Clermont. The Clermont is behind the Half Moon. Behind the Clermont is a “modern” steamship. In the background rises the 20-year-old Statue of Liberty.

The statue of Henry Hudson commissioned for the 1909 celebration wasn't dedicated until 1938. Karl Bitter, its sculptor (see also Schurz), died in 1915, one of the earliest vehicular traffic fatalities in New York. The work was completed by Bitter’s student Karl H. Gruppe and erected in the Bronx in 1938. When Parks Commissioner Robert Moses requested City funds to illuminate Hudson, Deputy Mayor Curran caustically replied:

I took a good look yesterday at the statue of Henry Hudson at Spuyten Duyvil ... It is the ugliest statue in New York, and that is saying a whole lot. The shaft is ugly, the figure is ugly, the whole thing is ugly. A barber pole would be nicer. Now just forget your idea of lighting it up at night. If you could dig a hole at Spuyten Duyvil and let the statue drop into it some night, and then cover it nicely, that would be the best way to handle it. -- Curran, New York Times 8/21/1938

Cross References

  • For other torches representing enlightenment: Statue of Liberty and America (one of the Continents).
  • Other works sponsored by Carlo Barsotti and Il Progreso Italo-AmericanoDante (Broadway at East 64th St., also by Ettore Ximenes) and Verdi.
  • Also shown in this episode: the Cantino Planisphere of ca. 1502. For other early maps of the Americas, see the Columbus Monument.
  • Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan has more on Verrazzano's voyage and on the polemical inscriptions for this sculpture.

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante