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Controversial ‘sexist’ statue moving to Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery

The controversial “Civic Virtue” by sculptor Frederick MacMonnies.
Photo by Jim Henderson, Wikipedia Commons

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

“Civic Virtue,” a controversial and deteriorating marble statue depicting a muscle-bound young man (representing virtue) trampling upon two reclining young women (representing graft and corruption) is finally moving from Kew Gardens, Queens, to Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, according to the New York Times.

The long-debated move was authorized Nov. 13 by the municipal Design Commission as a “long-term loan.”

The 22-ton statue was originally installed in front of New York City Hall in 1922, where it was denounced as “a demeaning depiction of woman being trampled by man.”

Sculptor Frederick MacMonnies, a famous American sculptor of the Beaux-Arts school, designed the work -- called “Fat Boy” by detractors.

According to the Forgotten New York blog, Mayor LaGuardia had the sculpture (which he despised) shipped off to Queens Borough Hall in 1941.

In 2011, Congressman Anthony Weiner and city council member Julissa Ferreras proposed selling the statue on Craigslist. “It doesn’t represent civic virtue of any sort, it represents an eyesore,” Weiner told CBS.

During his lifetime the artist MacMonnies himself added to the controversy when he described his work with these words: “One thinks of the beauty and laughter of women: the treachery of the serpent coils of a sea creature wrapped about its prey.”

In July, the New York Daily News said the city had hatched a “secret plan” to move the statue to Green-Wood. City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. blasted the idea, saying that the statue should be restored and kept in its current location.

“They are taking it from Queens and putting it on private property in Brooklyn,” he complained. “The city would never allow any statue in Central Park to deteriorate the way this one has.”

Another statue booster, the Queens Crap blogger wrote, “Fat Boy kidnapped. Not coming back.”

Supporters commenting on the blog said moving the statue would be “an insult to the Italian-American community.” While MacMonnies – born in Brooklyn Heights -- designed the statue in clay, the Italian-American Piccolini brothers translated his work into marble.

Green-Wood said last summer they would give the sculpture a good home, but reported on their website that New York City had refused their offer. The cemetery has already restored a pink Tennessee granite monument by MacMonnies, dating from 1916.

MacMonnies’s father, mother, and brother, are all interred at Green-Wood in section 195, lot 25899 – though MacMoonies is not.

November 27, 2012 - 8:24pm


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