Courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior

There is a bridge made of ideas and art that inextricably unites Florence and Italy with New York and the United States.

Two special Sisters in Liberty are the symbol and protagonists on this bridge, where stories of men and peoples intertwine with the pursuit of freedom and democracy: the solemn The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World by Frédéric Bartholdiwhich has dominated New York harbor since 1886, and the elegant Liberty of Poetry by Pio Fedi, inaugurated in 1883 as a monument to the Italian patriot Giovanni Battista Niccolini in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence.


They are sisters because they are similar in stance and in detail. And still today, among art historians, the question is an open one: was Bartholdi, who visited Florence, inspired by Fedi’s Liberty?

Sisters in Liberty is an exhibition at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration in New York, on display from October 18, 2019 to April 26, 2020. The initiative, promoted by the Opera di Santa Croce (the institution that for centuries has been in charge of the Florentine monumental complex of Basilica of Santa Croce, the burial place of Michelangelo, Galileo and other Italian greats), is linked to the celebration of the bicentennial of the presence of the United States Consulate General in Florence.


Ph: Coppitz

This initiative confirms the international vocation of the Basilica of Santa Croce, a subject that has always been a special affection for American visitors. “There is a deep bond of affection that unites Santa Croce with the United States,” says Irene Sanesi, president of the Opera di Santa Croce. “The closeness between the two sister statues is a symbol of this bond, today stronger than ever. Thousands of visitors come from the United States and hundreds of American donors have supported and continue to support our restoration projects with great generosity. This exhibition is a way to renew our friendship and to thank them too.


The exhibition itinerary was conceived as a historical reconstruction of the profound link between Florence, Europe and the United States and highlights the common progress made in the affirmation of the principles of freedom. The Liberty of Poetry by Pio Fedi, recently restored thanks to the contribution of the U.S.-based non-profit Friends of Florence Foundation, is central to the exhibition.

To open the dialogue with visitors, a video and a series of panels graphically reconstruct, through parallel paths, the history of the pursuit of political freedom in Italy and the United States. The itinerary ends with a reproduction of the Fedi’s Liberty of Poetry.


Thanks to a partnership with Kent State University, the statue was recently subjected to a very high-resolution 3D scanning that allowed the creation of a perfect life-size reproduction for the exhibition at the Ellis Island Museum. This reproduction is made of resin, has a height of three meters and weighs 250 kilograms. The operation was conducted by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Kent State University that are focused on building new interactive tools to enhance public engagement for important issues of our time.

Ph: Paola Rosa

The exhibition is curated by Giuseppe De Micheli and Paola Vojnovic (Opera di Santa Croce) and by Ann and David Wilkins (Duquesne University Program of Rome). The project is made possible by donations from institutions and individuals. The main donors are American Express and Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.

The project partners are: National Park Service / Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, Kent State University, US Consulate General in Florence, Italian Consulate General in New York, Garibaldi Meucci Museum, The Union League Legacy Foundation.

The Monumental Complex of Santa Croce belongs to the Fondo Edifici di Culto – Italian Ministry of Interior and to the City of Florence.

Cover ph: Paola Rosa

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