Jun 152012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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This pair of canvas’ are also in the elevator alcove.  The depict the farmlands of the Santa Clara Valley and the hills of the East Bay.
The artists was Rinaldo Cuneo. (1877-1939).  Cuneo was a native San Franciscan from North Beach where he maintained a studio.  He was educated at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute as well as in Paris and London.  He taught at the California School of Fine Arts and was a prolific painter.

This is the last in a series of the murals of Coit Tower.  There are more, unfortunately, they are not available to the public.  If you are interested in seeing pictures of them, and learning more about Coit Tower and all of the murals, I highly suggest you search out Masha Zakheim’s Book Coit Tower.

Jun 142012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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This is the second of the murals in the elevator alcove, It is titled San Francisco Bay, North and is by Jose Moya Del Pino (1869-1969). The two young men represent Moya del Pino himself watching as fellow artist Otis Oldfield sketches what he sees below him. If one looks closely you can see the former prison on the island of Alcatraz. This too is oil on canvas.

Jose Moya del Pino was born in Priego, Spain. By 1907, Moya was studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, and associated with the Post-impressionists of Spain including Juan Gris and Diego Rivera. In the 1920’s he spent four years painting forty-one reproductions of Valasquez’s paintings in the El Prado in Madrid and Valencia. King Alfonso asked him to travel with the collection as a goodwill gesture when it went to the new world. The exhibit ended in San Francisco and Moya remained. Otis Oldfield was responsible for Moya being hired for the Coit Tower project. Later projects for Moya included a post office in Stockton as well as public art projects in Redwood City and San Rafael, California.

Jun 132012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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In the alcove, where visitors wait for the elevator are four more murals. This one is titled San Francisco Bay. This is an oil on canvas, and was painted in the artists studio. The two little girls are the artists, Otis Oldfield’s, daughters, Rhoda and Jayne. as they look down on the waterfront from their father’s Telegraph Hill studio. The larger island they are peering at is Yerba Buena Island. That is the island that the present day San Francisco Bay Bridge goes through. Treasure Island, which would have been attached on the left hand side of Yerba Buena, had not yet been built. Treasure Island was built (from fill dredged from the bay) for the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939-1940.

Otis Oldfield was born in Sacramento in 1890. He came to San Francisco to enroll in Arthur Best’s private art school. In 1911, he went to Paris, where he stayed for sixteen years. In 1924, he began teaching at the California School of Fine Arts. He died in 1969.

Jun 122012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
News Gathering by Suzanne Scheuer
Scheuer worked with assistant Heve Daum on news gathering for her panel in Coit Tower.
Suzanne Scheuer was born in San Jose, California on February 11, 1898. She moved to San Francisco in 1918. She studied at the California School of Fine Arts and the California College of Arts and Crafts. She then taught for three years in the public schools of Los Banos and Salinas. In 1940 she joined the art faculty at the College of the Pacific in Stockton and taught there for ten years. She then moved to Santa Cruz, California where she designed and built six houses, doing much of the physical and artistic work herself while continuing to paint and sculpt. Scheuer died in Santa Cruz on December 20, 1984.  Other work of hers can be found in the Berkeley, California Post Office as well as two Texas Post Offices.
Sheuer’s window ledge San Francisco Chronicle front page announced the end of the art project in April, though some artists continued to add finishing details until June.
Jun 112012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
The Library by Bernard B. Zakheim

The Coit Tower murals were painted during a particularly disruptive period in U.S. History. Depression related economic challenges led to much discussion about alternate forms of government. A four day general strike (Bloody Thursday) accompanied by widespread rioting in San Francisco triggered an eighty-three day 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike.

Coit Tower muralists protested and picketed at the tower when Rivera’s mural commissioned for Rockefeller Center in New York City was destroyed after he refused to change an image of Lenin in the painting.

The opening of Coit Tower and the display of its murals was delayed several months because of the controversial content of some of the paintings. Clifford Wight’s mural, which contained a hammer and sickle as one of a series of medallions illustrating the range of political philosophies existing in America, was removed before the opening.

This particular mural depicts the anger that the artists felt at the destruction of Rivera/Rockefeller mural and the general tenet of the time.

Ralph Stockpole is reading a headline concerning the destruction of the Diego mural. Col. Harold Mack (on the Washington appointed supervisory committee for the murals) looks on while artist John Langley Howard holds a crumpled newspaper while reaching for Marx’s Das Kapital. Joseph Danysh (later federal Art Project director) holds a paper about mortgage foreclosures. Above the window are three Hebrew letters that spell out the contents of the three books lying on their sides: Torah, Prophets and Wisdom Literature.

 

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Bernard Baruch Zakheim (1896-1985) came to San Francisco in 1920 seeking political asylum from Poland. An upholsterer by trade he studied at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute. After his work at Coit Tower he worked for four years illustrating the history of medicine at the University of California Medical Center. He painted murals for a post office in Texas in 1938. Zakheim returned to Poland as an artist to paint the fresco The History of the Jews through Song.

For those of you that are not familiar with the Rockefeller/Rivera controversy, here is a synopsis.
By 1930, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera has gained international favor for his lush and passionate murals. Inspired by Communist ideals and an intense devotion to his cultural heritage, Rivera creates boldly hued masterpieces of public art that adorn the municipal buildings of Mexico City. His outgoing personality puts him at the center of a circle of left-wing painters and poets, and his talent attracts wealthy patrons, including Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. In 1932, she convinces her husband, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to commission a Rivera mural for the lobby of the soon-to-be-completed Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Flush from successes in San Francisco and Detroit, Rivera proposes a 63-foot-long portrait of workers facing symbolic crossroads of industry, science, socialism, and capitalism. The painter believes that his friendship with the Rockefeller family will allow him to insert an unapproved representation of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin into a section portraying a May Day parade. The real decision-making power lies with the Center’s building managers, who abhor Rivera’s propagandistic approach. Horrified by newspaper articles attacking the mural’s anti-capitalist ideology, they order Rivera to remove the offending image. When Rivera refuses, offering to balance the work with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the opposing side, the managers pay his full fee, bar him from the site, and hide the mural behind a massive drape. Despite negotiations to transfer the work to the Museum of Modern Art and demonstrations by Rivera supporters, near midnight, on February 10th, 1934, Rockefeller Center workmen, carrying axes, demolish the mural. Later, Rivera recreates the frescoes in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, adding a portrait of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in a nightclub. Rivera never works in the United States again, but continues to be active, both politically and artistically, until his death in 1957.

Jun 102012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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Stockbroker and Scientist by Mallete (Harold) Dean
Their are six figures that stand alone in the Tower. (You can review the first four here).  The stockbroker/banker is thought to be A.P. Giannini, founder of the Bank of Italy that later became Bank of America.  The Scientist is Nobel Prize winner, Albert Abraham Michelson.  He holds an interferometer and a scroll and stands near a picture of the James Lick Observatory which is on Mount Hamilton in San Jose, California.  Notice how the door of the observatory is a light switch.
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Mallete Dean was one of the more prolific painters of government sponsored murals in Northern California.  Born in Washington in 1907,  he studied at the California School of Fine Arts.  He was a furniture designer, decorator of books and graphic artist, for many years he created labels for the California wine industry.  Other works include the orchard scene in the Sebastapol, California Post Office.  He died in San Francisco in 1975.

Jun 092012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
The Meat Industry by Raymond Bertrand
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Notice the clever use of the window
Raymond Bertrand (1901-1986) was a native San Franciscan.  He studied at the California School of Fine Arts where he later taught Lithography. Bertrand was primarily a landscape panter, a critic once commented that Bertrand used “freezing blues, whites and greys” in his oil in a “small but icy collection of arctic landscapes”.  His name is used as the “author” of the book titled Rape, Mayhem and Vagrancy in the law library scene at Coit Tower.
Jun 082012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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Industries of California by Ralph Stackpole
This is a vast expression of the industries of California at the time.  Stackpole painted several fellow artists in this mural as well.  Tom Lehman, a local artist, pours chemicals into a container while William Hesthal bends over a table, notebook in hand.  Helen Clement Mills is one of the women working on an assembly line.
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Ralph Ward Stackpole (1885-1973) Stackpole grew up in Oregon.  He worked with scepter Arthur Putnam and painter Gottardo Piazzoni and the went to Paris to study at the Ecole de Beaux Arts.  Some of Stackpoles work in San Francisco include a few bronze heads in City Hall, to large granite sculptures outside of the Stock Exchange, frescoes at George Washington High School and The Anne Bremer Library at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Jun 072012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
Department Store by Frede Vidar
This mural depicts the interior of a typical 1930’s department store with soda fountain and wine shop.  Some items of interest are the fact that the waitress wears a cap with a Star of Dave, (which is surprising as Frede Vidar frequently expressed pro-Nazi sympathies and even scratched a swastika on a windowpane when he worked on the project)  and the fact that one of the clerks is holding a box with the SS logo on it.  Notice the Bing Crosby music in the background as well as Roman Scandals by Irving Berlin.  And yes, all of the bottles of wine are of local California vintages.
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Frede Vidar (1911-1967) was born in Denmark and moved with his parents to San Francisco while in High School.  He graduated from the High School of Commerce and later attended the School of Fine Arts.  He studied with Matisse in Paris in the 1930s.   From 1950 until his death in 1967 he was Professor of Art at the University of Michigan.
Jun 062012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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Cowboy and Farmer by Clifford Wight
These are four of six single standing figures in the collection.  They represent the very essence of California. The Will Rogers Style cowboy (that many friends of Wight said was a self portrait) and the farmer, that looks an awful lot like artist Ralph Stackpole.
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These two are Surveyor and Ironworker. There are three windows between these two figures. Over the central window Wight painted a bridge, which had the NRA Eagle in the center. Over the right hand window he stretched a segment of chain, and in the circle appeared the words In God We Trust, then over the last window he placed a section of woven cable and a circle framing a hammer and sickle, and the words United Workers of the World. This all proved to be entirely too controversial and it was removed before the tower opened in 1934.

Clifford Wight was born in England in 1900. He and Ralph Stackpole worked with Diego Rivera in the 1920’s. Wight came to San Francisco with Rivera to work as an assistant on Rivera’s murals at the San Francisco Art Institute. He also worked with Rivera on his Detroit mural. Diego Rivera painted a portrait of Wight into one of the frescos in the Secretariat of Education in Mexico City. He returned to England and died in 1966.

Jun 052012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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City Life by Victor Arnautoff is one of the largest murals in Coit Tower.  It is a wonderfully vibrant street scene taking artistic license with the various city landmarks and their geographic positions.
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Some things of note, the fire engine is Number 5, which was Lillie Hitchcock Coit’s beloved Knickerbocker Volunteer Fire Department.  Newspapers that include New Masses, Daily Worker, Time, Argonaut and Screenplay, with Mae West on the front.  The San Francisco Chronicle is noticeably absent, causing quite a stir at the time in the local press.  The artist is in the mural, near the newspaper stand wearing a fur collared coat.  Charlie Chaplin sits in the center of a sign announcing his new movie City Lights.  The “Auto Ferry to Oakland” is interesting in that the Bay Bridge would be built just a few years later in 1936.
Victor (/div>
Mikhail Arnautoff
(1896-1979) came to San Francisco via Mexico where he too worked as an assistant to Diego Rivera.  He attended the California School of Fine Arts, studying with Ralph Stackpole, fellow artist.  He returned to his native Russia in the 1960s.  Other works of his include frescoes in the Military Chapel at the Presido and three lunettes in the Anne Bremer Library at the San Francisco Art Institute.  He taught in the art department of Stanford University.
Jun 042012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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California Industrial Scenes by John Langley Howard
This mural gives us several juxtaposed scenes indicative of any society, but especially poignant during such difficult times.
There are the solemn workers of the May Day demonstration, a woman doing laundry on the rocks, and an elderly woman sawing logs by hand, while the great symbols of hydroelectric power are there in her sight. There is a migrant family with their broken down Model-T next to a group of observers with chauffeur and furs.  Notice the hobo on the train trestle, and the worker leaning on the culvert with newspapers around him that read “Relief Rolls Reach New All Time Peak” “I’m A Tough Guy, Franklin Roosevelt warns Congress” and “I learned a lot from the barracudas and the sharks, Roosevelt tells crowd at Station”.
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John Langley Howard (1902-1999) was the son of John Galen Howard, prominent architect, and brother Robert Howard, sculptor.  He attended the University of California and the California School of Arts and Crafts as well as the Art Student’s League of New York.  This is his only mural although he continued to paint, especially for sports magazines, depicting tools and machines in meticulous detail.

 

Jun 032012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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The California Agriculture Industry by Gordon Langdon
The dairy business is represented in this mural as well as several of the artists friends.  Gordon Langdon was assisted by Helen Clement Mills on this mural.

Fellow artist Fred Olmsted and his assistant Tom Hayes

Fellow artist John Langley Howard holding a pitchfork

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Fellow artist Lucien Labaudt showering a cow

Gordon Langdon did not stay long on the Coit Tower project.  His friends remembered him as a “handsome young man”.  His other murals in San Francisco include Modern and Ancient Science over the main entrance to the library at George Washington High School and The Arts of Man in the Anne Bremer Memorial Library at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Jun 022012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
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This mural is titled California and is by Maxine Albro.  A wonderful depiction of the bounty of the California agricultural industry from Mt. Shasta Almond Orchards to Napa Valley grapes.
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The “gentlemen farmers” are actually the artists friends.  Ralph Stackpole is in the checkered shirt and Albro’s husband, and fellow artist Parker Hall is by the tray of apricots.  The NRA (National Recovery Act)  eagle is found on the ends of the lugs of oranges.  The NRA was the primary New Deal agency established by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt  in 1933. The goal was to eliminate “cut-throat competition” by bringing industry, labor and government together to create codes of “fair practices” and set prices.
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Maxine Albro was an Iowan who studied at the California School of Fine Arts.  During the 1920s she studied in Paris and then in Mexico with Diego Rivera.  Like Rivera, Albro was no stranger to controversy. A work of four nudes that she painted at the Ebell Women’s Club in Los Angeles, titled “Portly Roman Sybils,” offended some of the organization’s members. The club rescinded approval of her frescoes, and destroyed the wall on which it was painted in 1935. Also destroyed (due to remodeling) was her mosaic of animals over the entrance to Anderson Hall at the University of California Extension in San Francisco.  In 1938,  after getting married, Albro and Hall moved to Carmel, California. During the 1940s they traveled throughout Mexico. As a result, most of her work consisted of Mexican subject matter, which she was best known for. She died on July 19, 1966 in Los Angeles.

 

Jun 012012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals

The little seated boy looks at a book whose page shows the date of Coit Tower (1933) and the date of the WPA projects at Coit Tower (1934).

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Animal Force by Ray Boynton
These are the first frescoes that one sees when entering Coit Tower.  Boynton chose to portray animal power in Agriculture.  As often occurred he included fellow artist Gordon Langdon leaning on a horse.
Ray Boynton was an Iowan, after studying art in Chicago he came to California to become the first California Fresco artist.  His first project appeared in a Los Altos home in 1917. While teaching fresco at the California School of Fine Arts he completed the first large scale mural in the auditorium of Mills College in Oakland. He went on to become a teacher at UC Berkeley.  He was called the “Dean of Frescoes” at Coit Tower.  After Coit Tower he completed 15 lunette murals in the Modesto Post Office.

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These further symbols of machine force include a man at the controls of a hydroelectric plant, a surveyor, steam shovel, and oil derricks.  Notice that he had to work around not only a door, but a delightful art deco light fixture

May 312012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals
 
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This law library has some interesting book titles when one looks closely.  There are the usual Civil, Penal and Moral Codes, but also the Law of Fresco Painting,  Counterfeiting, and Laws on Seduction.  A fun one is Martial Law by Brady, he was the VFW caretaker who watched over the project and lived in the Tower’s apartment.   The man on the left with the pipe is thought to be, patron of the arts, William Gerstle.

The Stock Exchange. Notice the downward movements of the market.

Federal Reserve Bank. It is thought that the curly haired blond is Fred Olmsted, assistant to Coit Tower artist John Langley Howard and later an artist in the program himself.

The artist on this panel was George Albert Harris (1913-1991). Harris was one of the youngest artist to work on Coit Tower. He was a student at the California School of Fine Art and later painted a mural in San Francisco’s Chamber of Commerce building. He was a professor in the art department of Stanford University.

May 302012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower
WPA Murals

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This is the beginning of a series on the WPA murals of Coit Tower. When the Great Depression hit, like everyone, artists were not finding work. George Biddle, a prominent lawyer turned successful artist, a member of a socially prominent family from Philadelphia, and most importantly, a Groton and Harvard classmate of Franklin Roosevelt, went to the President with an idea.
He suggested that America hire American artists to paint murals depicting the social ideals of the new administration as well as the American way of life, on the walls of public buildings.

The WPA, created by an order from the President, was funded by Congress with passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 on April 8, 1935.

San Francisco became District 15 of the National Plan. Coit Tower was one of three large WPA mural projects in San Francisco the others are at Rincon Annex Post Office and The Beach Chalet.

Dr. William Heil, a new immigrant from Germany and the director of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park was chosen to select and supervise “worthy artists”. It was also Dr. Heil who suggested the medium of frescoes for the project.

According to Masha Zakheims book Coit Tower. there were few interpersonal problems; the “purists” created their preliminary sketches and layouts in their own studio. The artists put in their thirty hours a week as they chose, often working into the small hours to meet the demands of the rapidly drying plaster. Surprised at their diligence it was reported to Washington D.C. that the artists at Coit Tower were very moral and conscientious, not drunken, promiscuous, and orgiastic as some had predicted a group of Bohemians would be.

Fresco (plural either frescos or frescoes) is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls, ceilings or any other type of flat surface. The word fresco comes from the Italian word affresco which derives from the Latin word for “fresh”.

May 292012
 
Telegraph Hill
Coit Tower

To understand Coit Tower you must first understand Lillie Hitchcock Coit.  A nice tale is told here from the Virtual San Francisco History Museum written by: By Frederick J. Bowlen, Battalion Chief, San Francisco Fire Department.

One of the most unusual personalities ever connected with our Fire Department was a woman. She was Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who was destined not only to become a legend but to attain that eminence long before her life ended.

She came to this city in 1851 from West Point, where her father had been an army doctor. Seven years later, when only 15 years old, she began her famous career with Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 5.
One afternoon that pioneer fire company had a short staff on the ropes as it raced to a fire on Telegraph Hill. Because of the shortage of man power, the engine was falling behind. Oh, humiliating and better was the repartee passed by Manhattan No. 2 and Howard No. 3 as the total eclipse seemed to be but a matter of seconds. Then, suddenly there came a diversion. It was the story of Jeanne d’Arc at Orleans, The Maid of Sargossa and Molly Pitcher of Revolutionary fame all over again.Pretty and impulsive Lillie Hitchcock, on her way home from school, saw the plight of the Knickerbocker and tossing her books to the ground, ran to a vacant place on the rope. There she exerted her feeble strength and began to pull, at the same time turning her flushed face to the bystanders and crying: “Come on, you men! Everybody pull and we’ll beat ‘em!”…It continues:When Mrs. Coit died here in July 22, 1929, at the age of 86, she gave practical evidence of her affection for San Francisco. She left one-third of her fortune to the city “to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved.”For several years after her death, there was question as to the most fitting interpretation of the “appropriate manner” in which to make the memorial. The executors of her will at last determined to erect a memorial tower in honor of this colorful woman.

Coit Tower was built in 1933. The concrete tower was constructed by Arthur Brown Jr., best known for City Hall. The tower is adorned with one simple ornament by Robert Bordman Howard, the phoenix, symbolizing San Francisco’s repeated growth after its many fires.

The structure is made of unpainted reinforced concrete. Contrary to urban legend, the building was not made to resemble a fire hose.

There is a small studio apartment on the second floor of the tower, which was originally used as lodging for the structure’s caretaker.

If you are interested in learning more about Coit Tower, I highly recommend Masha Zakheim’s book Coit Tower, San Francisco Its History and Art

 

 

May 232012
 
Coit Tower
Telegraph Hill
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Columbus by Vittorio Di Colbertaldo – 1957

This statue of Christopher Columbus sits in the center of the parking lot for Coit Tower. The figure of Columbus, the famous Italian explorer, gazes out over San Francisco Bay standing on a concrete pedestal in the center of a circular flower bed, bordered by a marble ring. Dedicated on October 12, 1957, the newspapers of the time recorded that “Singers, sailors from American and Italian navies, and spectators stood in reverent silence as 12-foot statue of Christopher Columbus is unveiled today on Telegraph Hill. The sculpture piece was the work of Italy’s Vittorio de Colbertaldo. Columbus Day weekend will be highlighted here tomorrow with a parade.”

Little in known of Count Vittorio di Colbertaldo (Forlì 1902- Verona 1979), other than he was a member of, and official sculptor of Il Duce’s bodyguard.
One stone on the ring to the left of Columbus is from the dedication ceremonies and includes a message from Pope Pius XII reading:

PRESENTED TO THE PEOPLE OF SAN FRANCISCO
BY THE COLUMBUS MONUMENT COMMITTEE
WITH GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT
TO ALL THE DONORS
WHO MADE THIS MEMORIAL POSSIBLE
INCLUDING THE CITY OF GENOA
FOR THE DONATION OF THE PEDESTAL
AND THE MARINI FAMILY
FOR THE GIFT OF THE MARBLE RING
VITTORIO di COLBERTALDO
DESIGNER and SCULPTOR