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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25 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.

      • Tim Coletti says:

        Hi Janice, Wow, a few years go by and I don’t think I ever saw any of these replies! I just saw a post come through email and the thread has grown to include relatives that I know, like Doe Mechem (Hi Doe!), and distant cousins that I never met!

        • Janice Brown says:

          Its a virtual family reunion 🙂 Nice to see you all gather here and comment!

          • Tim Coletti says:

            Thanks to you Janice! I just might have to design a Coletti family tree of art, music & creative writing website one of these days. There are music and creative writing branches to the family too with my older brother, his daughter, my sons, and my 1st cousin Carroll’s daughter published a book at a very early age… Doe is married to a very distinguished composer by the way…

    • Bill Black says:

      Hi Tim, It’s Friday, December 12, 2015 today. I recently found some old photos of my dad’s and other items and I just now came across what seemed for a moment like an unopened 9 x 11 envelope that had “PHOTOGRAPHS Handle Carefully” stamped on it.. It was addressed to my late dad, Ivan Black, from your Uncle Joseph A. Coletti. My dad was an Art History and Architecture major, Harvard Class of 24. In the envelope is a wonderful hand written letter from Joe to my dad and 3 photos. Amazing! They were obviously classmates and friends. My email is and my phone is either 908-459-4545 or 646-508-5634. Best regards, Bill Black

    • John Coletti says:

      Hi Tim. My name is Nunzio Coletti and we are somewhat distant cousins. My dad referred to your dad and uncle’s as cousins. Your uncle Paul came to my dad’s funeral in the early 80’s. I’ll be in Tuscany in August and hope to come across some Coletti’s

  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.

      • Eli Cedrone says:

        Hello Donata! My grandmother Lucia Coletti was Josephs cousin from West Quincy. I posted more info below – I hope to chat with you sometime.

      • Lindsay Coletti Tatnall says:

        Hi Donata,
        My name is Lindsay Coletti Tatnall, my Father is Donald Coletti, who you speak about above. I grew up on Champlain Drive in Hudson MA, and am the last of his six children. He is alive and well. It was so great to hear about him as a child as I don’t have much family on the Coletti side. I would love to try and hear more stories and share pictures with you. I understand this post was some years ago at this point, but my hope is that you see this and email me. My Dad would love to connect as well.
        My email is
        All the best,
        Lindsay Coletti Tatnall

  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

  6. Russell Coletti Jr. says:

    My great grandfather, Cataldo, was Joseph A. Coletti’s Uncle. Joseph’s father was Domenico Coletti. My name is Russell Coletti Jr. and I am an a self taught artist living in Florida who has sold paintings all over the world, I have good genes huh?

  7. Russell Coletti says:

    Donata, My son Vincent Michael Coletti lives in San Francisco and is attending FEDM University. He is a genius talent and I would love for him to meet you! My email is-

    Russell Coletti, ( Your father was my cousin!)

    • Carol Coletti says:

      Hi Russell. I was tagged into Donata’s original post. My husband was Joseph Coletti’s nephew. Where exactly do you fit into the Coletti family? I read what you wrote but more important what is the lineage? I know most of the Coletti’s as they all were born and lived in the New England area but have never heard of a Russell. Would love to fill in some more blanks. Arthur unfortunately passed away very young (42) but I have been working on his ancestry. I spent a decent amount of time with Joseph, visited his studio in Boston. Hope to hear from you.

      Carol Coletti

  8. Eli Cedrone says:

    I’m very excited to have found this forum. My name is Eleanor (Eli) Cedrone – I’m a fine artist and John Singer Sargent is one of my greatest influences. My grandmother was Lucia Coletti from West Quincy and Joseph Coletti was her first cousin. She married Cesidio Cedrone and My father Ugo Cedrone worked in the granite industry in Quincy. My brothers and their sons have continued the tradition. I would appreciate any info you have. I’m trying to figure out how Lucia and Joseph were cousins. I have two copies of the book The Sculpture of Joseph Coletti. I’ll be celebrating my 60th birthday in San Donato on June 10!.

  9. Ian Coletti says:

    I see my Uncle Russ has already chimed in. I’m a musician (Bagpipes oddly enough as my mother is from Scotland). I’m pretty sure I’m channeling my Coletti artistic side for my talent. 🙂

  10. Mark R. Reeves, M.D. says:

    I knew Joe most of my life. He lived at 30 Ipswich street where he had his studio. It was a group of artist friends, Joe, My grandfather Erel Guidone, C. W. Anderson and some others. Joe and Erel, as I understand it, were at Harvard together and all lived together in Boston. They also lived in Mason, N.H. during the spring, summer and some of the fall. Erel died in 1956 but Joe and Andy (c.W. anderson) acted as substitute granddads to me and my sisters. I have many fond memories of Joe. He was a prince of a man, the world is a sadder place without him. I always recall when I visit Boston that he sculpted the decoration over the logan tunnel going to the airport.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Dr. Reeves, thank you for reading this story about Joseph Coletti and for sharing your remembrances. There is no doubt that he was extremely talented and the world has benefited from his talent.

  11. Joy Coletti says:

    Hi !
    I’m Joy Coletti a painter
    My Dad and Grandfather were both named Guy Coletti of Newton Mass.
    I grew up with Joe Colettis large book of sculptures on our coffee table and was told we were related but I’m not quite sure how although my grandfather had 10 brothers and sisters

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