At Pierce Brothers Valhalla Cemetery, North Hollywood, California
Grave site of American Aviation Pioneers including
Charles Taylor, the Wright Brothers' Mechanic




Portal Sculptor
April 1, 1878 - November 9, 1963

By Giacinta Bradley Koontz

Federico A. Giorgi, Sculptor and Painter, was born in Florence, Italy. He received his art school training at the Academy Delle Belle Arti in Rome, before he moved to the United States in 1909 to become a citizen.

Immediately, Mr. Giorgi became a noted artist across America in demand for his old World skills. Just six years after his arrival, Mr. Giorgi was commissioned to create decorative castings on the buildings for the San Francisco International Exposition (1915) for which he was awarded a Gold Medal by his artist peers. Some of those buildings, and Mr. Giorgi's, work remain today.

For 30 years, Mr. Giorgi's sculptures and paintings were associated with many of the most famous names in American history such as Col. Charles Lindbergh, Helen Keller, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith, and Sam Warner (Warner Brothers Studio). He returned to San Francisco to produce several pieces of sculpture for the 1939 Exposition, to high acclaim.

Mr. Giorgi was hired to complete set designs for several Hollywood production companies from the very beginning of the silent films. His first commission was for the great Director, D.W. Griffith in America's first epoch film, "Intolerance" produced in 1917. The scene entitled "Balthazaar's Feast" was intended to stun the audience with an aerial view of thousands of people standing in a city built of 30 foot statues of elephants and lions and human statues. Under Mr. Giorgi's artistic control, a construction crew of hundreds built a movie set which today (due to prohibitive costs) could only be generated by computer graphics.

In the 1920's, (when he designed the Portal sculpture) Mr. Giorgi was hired to paint portraits by many wealthy patrons, but continued his work for the movie industry. He sculpted two busts which were used in a film starring Douglas Fairbanks, for which Mr. Fairbanks wrote a note describing the work as having "delicacy and strength."

Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight in 1927 spurred many tributes. Helen Keller wrote a poem entitled "The Valiant" which inspired Mr. Giorgi to create a bronze plaque depicting "Strength and Beauty" in the form of human figures on either side of a small plane which she described as having "caught the spirit of that glorious adventure." Although blind, she was sent a copy of the piece so that she could trace if with her fingers. In 1932, the plaque was placed on permanent exhibit in the St. Louis, Missouri Historical Society Museum.

Mr. Giorgi sculpted forms for the exteriors of many prominent buildings, some which can be seen today including:

The Elks Building, Los Angeles, CA
The Million Dollar Theater, Los Angeles, CA
San Mateo Courthouse, San Mateo, CA
The Great Majestic Theater, San Antonio, TX

He also painted the murals on the walls of the Montelion Hotel in New Orleans, LA.

Other patrons for portraits by Mr. Giorgi are: Mr. L. E. Behymer, Mr. Sam Warner, (Warner Brothers Studio) Dr. Ford A. Carpenter (Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce) and his father. Also painted for private or civic display were Mrs. N. Beauregard, Curator and Archivist of the Missouri Historical Society, Mrs. W. Dellamore, Mr. Major Spencer C. Jones, ex-President of the State Senate of Maryland, and Mr. G. Moses of New Orleans.

Mr. Giorgi's last studio was located at 9000 Rangely Avenue, Los Angeles, 48, California. He lived in the area until his death and is buried at Valhalla just a few feet from his own creation. He is survived by his step-daughter and daughter-in-law and distant relatives who still live in the Los Angeles and Santa Rosa, California areas.

Although much admired early in his career, Mr. Giorgi did not enjoy the recognition he so deserved later in life, and (according to his family) died believing no one cared any longer about his work. In his own self portrait one can see the eyes of an artist not unlike those self-portraits so recently displayed in Los Angeles of Vincent Van Gogh who died with similar feelings of under-appreciation.

With the restoration of the Portal of the Folded Wings by the professional artisans of the Sculpture Conservation Studio of Los Angeles, Mr. Giorgi's work has been preserved for us to enjoy today. His step-daughter believes that somehow he knows we have once again recognized his artistic contribution, and is finally at peace.

I believe he is smiling as we honor him today. Bravo.

Giacinta Bradley Koontz, Director
The Portal of the Folded Wings
Shrine to Aviation and Museum
May 31, 1999
Memorial Day


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