• Francesco base sketch
  • Francesco in Emanuele De Reggi's studio before shipping to Newport News.
  • Emanuele De Reggi at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center exhibition for Francesco.
  • Francesco concrete base
  • Francesco, photo by Emanuele De Reggi



Mouth open, hair streaming, this estatic young man experiences a moment of joy, of oneness with the birds who have settled on his outstretched arms, of harmony with the creatures around him.

The artist explains his vision: “Man on the planet Earth has lots of friends. His friends are all the creatures; they are all experiencing life. With this vision within, man can walk out and cure the omnipresent sensation of loneliness. In the prayers of St. Francis, you find this vision. … Probably the birds are the ones that in the morning remind us about it: a new day on planet Earth.”

The figure depicted is a familiar part of the cultural fabric of De Reggi’s native Italy; in the West we know him as St. Francis of Assisi. Here, a young Francesco is captured in a watershed moment, as birds flock to him and they seem to share a common language. In the language of De Reggi’s work, this figure stands in for all of us, if we will seize the promise of the human condition: the feeling of connection, of joy, of the gift of life.

Audio Tour: Hear De Reggi tell you about his piece

I am Emanuele De Reggi and this is Francesco. The bronze sculpture that you have in front of you is a moment of grace. Grace is bliss, deep understanding finally leading towards awareness.

The young boy is walking on waters with birds gently touching his hands. You wonder if they could end up teaching him how to fly. His walk on water is gentle. The water is covered with sardines and they’re obviously happy to be used as a path.

Being Italian, the figure of Francesco [St. Francis] was with me since the beginning. Piero della Francesca [Italian Renaissance artist] also came in to support this vision of grace.

I made this piece in my 30s and I remember that this sensation of gratitude I had all through the making of the piece. The gratitude was total. To be alive. To have all these different creatures next to me gave me the final push to quote on the base, “Who are you, O sweetest god of mine?”

These words are addressed to the great forces that hold the universe together. God is for me intended as a synonym of these forces.

Finally I want to leave you with a strong sensation of wonder:

What are we doing on this planet?

photo by Melanie Sochan

Artist: Emanuele De Reggi

Details: Bronze, 7′ high. Made in Italy. Installed in 2013.
Site: west end of the Great Lawn, Christopher Newport University.


Emanuele De Reggi with Francesco; photo by Bill Boxer

Like his works, De Reggi exudes a sense of movement, of embracing and flourishing on the tide of change that is life’s constant. He is in transit, shuttling between his home base in the historic sculpting town of Pietrasanta, Italy, and Bangkok, where he works with local craftsmen to cast his massive bronze sculptures. Motion and change have been the constant in his life: Since early adulthood, he has traveled and studied, lived and found inspiration around the globe, from North and South America to Australia, from India and Thailand to Spain and Italy. It seems as if he simply cannot live in a way that does not involve ever-unfolding opportunities to experience and grow, in a process that feeds and expresses a supple imagination and talent.

De Reggi’s projects include monumental sculptures, sometimes in conjunction with major construction projects, to which he brings a fine sensitivity to the relationship between art and architecture and to the contribution art can bring to a project, whether it is a corporate headquarters or a public facility. In addition to his permanent installations, his work has been exhibited in galleries and shows in Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Greece and the United States.

Born in Florence, Italy, De Reggi was introduced to the world of art by his grandfather, the painter Emanuele Cavalli, but De Reggi chose sculpture over painting because, he says, it is more emotional and appeals to all the senses. It is also, in his hands, a powerful expressive tool, one he yields by using visual metaphors to give dimension to ideas, much as the fish in Il Segreto is a metaphor for the truth, or the balanced perch of the figure on Carambola is a metaphor for the necessity of being poised for what life will bring, or the trees that show up in many of his works suggest the endurance of nature. Those ideas — the constancy of change, the fragility of man, the instability of our balance, the long view of nature — flow fluidly from his soul to his imagination, from the work of his hands to the motion-infused style of his life.

De Reggi’s website: emanueledereggi.it