By Livia Lupi and Jean Marie Carey

Sculptor Silpa Bhirasri, born Corrado Feroci, died on 14 May 1962 in Bangkok. Bhirasri was born in Florence in 1892, living the majority of his life in Thailand.

Bhirasri studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, where he also taught sculpture from 1914 to 1923. In 1922, after realising a bronze monument to the fallen soldiers of the First World War for the town of Portoferraio in Elba, an island off the Tuscan coast, he took part in a competition organised by the Thai (then Siamese) government. He was chosen amongst 200 competitors to work on sculptures commissioned by the country’s monarchy, such as the busts of King Rama VI Vachiravudh and of his uncle prince Naris. Between 1929 and 1932, Bhirasri realised a bronze statue of King Rama I, originally designed by Prince Naris, to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of the foundation of Bangkok. This prestigious commission earned Bhirasri national admiration an respect, as well as a renewal of his contract.

After the deposition of the absolute monarchy and the name change from Siam to Thailand, prime minister Luang Pibul Sonogram commissioned to Bhirasri the relief panels for the Monument to Democracy in 1939, then the Monument to Victory in 1940, which commemorates the armed conflict between Thailand and France, and a sculpture representing Thao Suraranee, a Thai heroine, in 1943. In the same year, the artisti changed his name to Silpa (art) Bhirasri (a phonetic approximation of Feroci in Thai), becoming a Thai citizen in 1944.

Bhirasri worked tirelessly on a theoretical level too, writing several essays about traditional Thai art and its future in light of Western modern art, and organising numerous exhibitions. He is considered by many as the father of modern Thai art. 

Reference: Michael Smithies, “Feroci, Corrado,” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Enciclopedia Treccani.

Portrait of Corrado Feroci (Silpa Bhirasri), 1950s?

Monument to the Fallen, 1922, Portoferraio, Elba.

King Rama I, 1929-1932, Bangkok.

Monument to Democracy, 1939, Bangkok.

Monument to Victory, 1940, Bangkok.

Monument to Thao Suranaree, 1943, Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat).

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