French tasked six brothers who had emigrated from Italy with chiseling Lincoln’s likeness out of 28 blocks of white Georgia marble. Already renowned for carving the New York Stock Exchange’s pediment and the Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village, the Piccirilli brothers carved the slabs in their sprawling workshop in the New York City borough of the Bronx. When finished, the enormous blocks were transported to the memorial and delicately assembled like puzzle pieces with nearly invisible seams. Although French proposed engraving “Piccirilli Brothers” into the statue’s plinth, the humble carvers refused the honor.
The statue, originally intended to be only 10 feet tall, was on further consideration enlarged so that it finally stood 19 feet tall from head to foot, the scale being such that if Lincoln were standing he would be 28 feet tall. The extreme width of the statue is the same as its height, 19 feet. The Georgia white marble sculpture weighs 175 tons and had to be shipped in 28 separate pieces. The statue rests upon an oblong pedestal of Tennessee marble 10 feet high, 16 feet wide, and 17 feet deep. Directly beneath this lies a platform of Tennessee marble 34 feet 5 inches long, 28 feet 1 inch wide, and 6 inches high. The statue is subtly bordered by two pilasters, one on each side. Between these pilasters and above Lincoln’s head lies an engraved inscription.