Not New Hampshire: Italian-born Sculptor, Joseph Arthur Coletti (1898-1973)

Cow Hampshire readers may be surprised to see me writing about someone who was neither born nor lived in the State of New Hampshire. On occasion I happen across a

Passport photograph of Joseph A. Coletti in 1923.

Passport photograph of Joseph A. Coletti in 1923.

name or event that ties into a story that I am writing, and believe that if I am curious to learn more, that others also will. Such is the case with the artist sculptor by the name of Joseph Arthur Coletti.

His connection to New Hampshire, is through the statue of Ferdinand Gagnon at Lafayette Park in Manchester, which he created. I will be posting addition links to more of his works later in this story. It is his only work located here (in New Hampshire).

Photograph of Joseph A. Coletti taken in 1924 upon winning the Sachs Art Award.

Photograph of Joseph A. Coletti taken in 1924 upon winning the Sachs Art Award.

Joseph Arthur Coletti, was born 5 November 1896 at San Donato Val di Comino Italy, son of Domenico & Donata Coletti.  He was brought to the United States at the age of 2 years, and  raised in Quincy, Massachusetts.  As a young man he attended the local Quincy schools, and also worked as a tool sharpener in the granite quarries where his father also worked.

An article in the Boston Herald of 26 May 1968 stated, “He stands as a Janus-figure in the world of sculpture synthesizing the purity of the Greek ideal and the fire of Renaissance  realism with an immediacy belonging to the Coletti vision alone.”  His creative projects included architectural sculpture, medals, portraits, memorials, statues,  nudes and animals.

He began training at an early age at the Evening Art School in Quincy, Massachusetts. He attended the Massachusetts School of Art and apprenticed himself to the sculptor John Evans (1847-1923). He then  worked with John Singer Sargent as the famous artist’s only pupil, and assisted him with the sculptured ceiling at the Boston Public Library and the rotunda at the Museum of Fine Arts.

After preparatory work at Northeastern University, he entered Harvard from which he graduated in 1923. He then received two traveling fellowships in fine arts from Harvard., and was a visiting fellow at the American Academy in Rome, Italy from 1924 to 1926.  He returned to the United States in 1926 and established his studio in Boston.

Where some of his work can be found : Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore MD; Archibald Cary Coolidge memorial at Harvard’s Widener Library; Lafayette Park state of Ferdinand Gagnon in Manchester NH; Sumner tunnel Memorial Sculpture in Boston, ( a tympanum of St. Theodore for the chapel of Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania; the narthex of the Harvard World War I Memorial Chapel. He executed the sculpture for the north transept portal at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Probably one of the most easily accessible of his projects is his “Farmers and Geese” panel is in the Mansfield Post Office. Well known are his panels “Riveters and Granite,” and the “Cranes” for the pediment at the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy; the thirty-foot high “Mourning Victory” at Salem MA; Lt. General Edward Logan at the Boston Airport; and Sen. David I. Walsh on the Esplanade in Boston. His monument to the Rev. Michael Joseph McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, dedicated in 1956 in Waterbury, Connecticut; His portrait busts include John Nicholas Brown, Ralph Adams Cram, John Deferrari, a benefactor of the Boston Public Library (now located in the Boston Room of the Johnson Building); and the Turak Gallery in Nottingham PA.  He also is represented at the Vatican Museum, the Museum of Treasures at Cathedral Wavel Castle, Cracow Poland, and the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris. In addition there is a listing of some works at the Smithsonian.

In 1948 he was elected an Honorary Member of the Harvard Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1959 his statue of St. George was placed on permanent exhibition in the National Gallery of Modern Art in the Pitti Palace at Florence, Italy–the first American so honored. Mr. Coletti served for six years as Chairman of the Massachusetts Art Commission. He was recognized not only for the works of art that he created, but as a master of his art of sculpture. He was also the author of a study of Aristide Maillol, as well as many articles and book reviews.

Joseph Arthur Coletti had married in 1929 to artist Miriam Kerruish Whitney, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Samuel Whitney of Montclair, N.J.  (They later divorced). Together they had two daughters Donata Coletti who married the composer Kirke Mechem, and Miriam Coletti who married Peter  B. Dow.

Joseph A. Coletti died  5 May 1973 “at his Boston home. He had been ill for two months after a heart attack.” Funeral Services were held in Memorial Chapel at Harvard, and he was buried at Mt. Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, Massachusetts.

FYI: Joseph’s brothers, Carroll Coletti, and Paul A. Coletti, Boston and Quincy architects, designed, among other structures, the Thomas Crane Memorial Library in Quincy, MA.


Photograph: Joseph A. Coletti in his studio, 1944 – Harvard University Library

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7 Responses to Not New Hampshire: Italian-born Sculptor, Joseph Arthur Coletti (1898-1973)

  1. Pingback: Manchester New Hampshire’s Lafayette Park | Cow Hampshire

  2. virginia Penrod says:

    fascinating, Jan. I love the research you do!!

  3. Tim Coletti says:

    It was a really cool surprise to come across your blog. Uncle Joe was an inspiration to all of us, as was his brother Paul, my grandfather; an incredible architect and amazing human being.

    • Janice Brown says:

      You come from an extremely talented family, and have many reasons to be proud of them. Thank you for posting, and if you have any information you feel I should add to the story please let me know.

  4. Carol Coletti says:

    It should be noted that there were two more brothers, one of whom I do not know anything about, but had heard his name was Franco, and Donato, my late husband’s father. Donato was also a talented sculptor but as the oldest brother, he worked and helped his younger brothers get an education. Some of his work could be seen at the old Federal Reserve Bank in Boston. My husband and I visited “Uncle Joe” at his Ipswich Street studio. He was a reserved man, very talented and his work imposing at the least.

    • Donata C. Mechem says:

      Carol: You must be the wife of my cousin Donald. I am Joseph A. Coletti”s oldest daughter Donata C Mechem. Is it really true that Donald has died? How sad. Do you live on Champlain Drive in Hudson MA? Tell me about him and your family. I can tell you a lot about his father Donato, never known as anything but Dan, and his mother my Aunt Rita. The oldest brother Francesco died at age 19 from flu which was very severe in the second decade of the 20th century. I have a family picture of all of them. I also have pictures of Donald and his brother Arthur as little kids. They lived, until Donald was in his early teens, with my Grandmother at 49 Verchild Street in Quincy. I am now 83 and my sister Mimi C. Dow will be 82 this coming July. Donald, I think, was 8 or 9 years younger than I. I was born in l932. Donald’s father was a very sweet man. He was the only one who had a slight Italian accent because he must have been in his early teens when the family came to this country. Uncle Paul’s middle name was Amerigo because he was the first one born in this country. He NEVER told anyone what the A stood for. Poor Dan didn’t finish his schooling because he was embarrassed to go to school with a foreign accent. He worked a lot for my father. The story goes that he was up on a ladder doing something to finish a very tall sculpture and he lost his footing. He had the choice of dropping down and breaking the sculpture or grabbing some hot water pipes. He grabbed the pipes until the ladder was restored and burned his hands to save the statue. As a kid I remember he always would give us candy which he seemed to have an endless supply of in his pockets. At some point he had been in a fight and had his nose broken. It was a bit crooked. As a result he snored SO loudly you could hear him down the hall with the bedroom door shut. We always marveled how Aunt Rita could have slept in the same room with him. The youngest brother was named Carroll. He was a lot younger. My father paid for him to go to Yale and to architectural school. He also paid to have Uncle Paul go to Harvard Architectural School. Carroll was a very fine painter, mostly water colors. My sister and I each have a few of his paintings as do the Paul Coletti cousins. Did Donald ever spend time with that family? The kids were David, (died a few years) ago, Barry, now lives in Plymouth and Silvia who lives in Miami FL.

      I was going to send a Christmas card to Donald or communicate with him in some way but was never able to get his compete address. Donald was a very cute little kid blond and blue eyed not looking a bit Italian. Actually our Grandfather Domenico Coletti whom none of us ever met because he died when my parents were just engaged was red headed and blue eyes as was the youngest brother Carroll.

      It would be lovely to exchange more family news if you wish to. My email is below here. I live in San Francisco I have three grown daughters and a grown son and four grand daughters. My younger sister Mimi lives in Buffalo NY. She had two grown daughters and two grown sons who between them have three grandsons and six grand daughters. Best Donata (Doe) Mechem.

  5. John Gomez says:

    Hello, Ms. Mechem – I am writing a book on the architecture of Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson. A chapter will feature sculptors who worked with Cram, including Joseph Coletti. Would you be able to supply an archival photograph of Joseph? Please contact me at or 201-888-9543. Thank you, John Gomez

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