Pizzano Sculpts A Rich Heritage In Woodcraft

South End Business

by Jeanne Belovitch

Some 100 years ago, a young Italian man from Avellino, a small town outside Milano, Italy, went to work as a cabinet maker and wood sculptor.

Today, his craft, which has flourished through five generations on both sides of the Atlantic, is kept alive and well in Boston's South End by his great grandson, Saverio Pizzano. Pizzano is owner of C. Pizzano and Son, located on Columbus Avenue since 1940.

The store front window only hints of what to expect inside: six floors of finished and unfinished works, chisels numbering in the hundreds, and various saws and planking devices testify to an art, which only a handful can perform.

Fifty-five-year-old Pizzano, an affable man with a wonderful smile recalls he started to learn cabinet making at age five, although cabinet making appears to be an understatement when one sees the artfulness of his work.

"I did nothing but drawings for year," he remembers. "I had to do every drawing my father did. Then I'd carve rows and rows of rosettes. My neck would hurt, 'Dad, my neck hurts,' I'd say. But, I didn't talk back too much."

After Pizzano mastered drawing from his father's tutelage, he went on to the Museum of Fine Arts for additional instruction at age 12. From there, he headed to an art teacher at Copley Square for private lessons.

Pizzano's breadth of subject matter and precision in executing his art is stunning. He chooses from more than 500 chisels to create the necessary perfection in his work.

He makes all styles of furniture: Chipendale, French Provincial, Applewhite, Duncan Fife, and pie crust tables, ball claw legs, and fluted-back chairs. He can duplicate any design of furniture on exhibit in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

"As kids, we'd go in and sketch the furniture. When no one was looking we'd take out our sketch pads. Now, you can go in with a camera," he says shrugging his shooulders.

Pizzano made practically all the furniture in Mayor Curley's home,down to his bedroom set. "My father worked for one year straight on a Renaissance bedroom set for a vice president of Economy Grocery Stores in 1933, "he explained, pointing to a photograph of a seven foot high headboard of intricate and intertwining carvings of serpents, winged fish, dolphins, shields, trees, and lots more. His father was paid a dollar a day for his efforts---$365 for the entire job.

One room on the second floor of his business is devoted to wildlife wood carvings. There are eagles, falcons, rabbits, turtles, swans, ducks, whales, does, and hippos. The only thing missing is the Ark.

"People buy the eagles for over their fireplaces or for garages," he said. One eagle hanging on the wall has a 10-foot wing span.

The big attraction for people passing by, however, was Pizzano's life size Maiden Indian and Indian man which were displayed in the window for several years. They were stolen Christmas Day last year.

Another piece that beguiles is a griffin's head that has a smile similar to his. "When a wood carver carves a face, it usually looks like the carver," he explained. "The first thing you do is go like this." Pizzano put his hands over his face feeling the contours and shapes with his finger tips.

Pizzano's work has been displayed in several places including Underwood Han. "People are always calling me to borrow furniture for movies and things. That movie company that was here filming this summer in the South End called me."

The Pizzano family has been a force in cabinet making and wood sculpture in the United States for more than half a century. Pizzano's father won a gold medal from the Italian Government for a plaque he created here. His uncle Charles of Medford is a world renowned sculptor. His numerous statues and other works are in churches around the world, including the Vatican. Pizzano's son Charles, still learning from his father, will carry on the long and distinguished history of cabinet making and wood sculpturing for the Pizzano family.

Source: South End News, Boston, MA; October 3,1983