Monday, April 21, 2014

Board of Trade -- Madelyn FioRito

Madelyn FioRito (interactivewtttw.com)
Anyone ever hear of Madelyn FioRito?

Me either . . . until I found an article in The Tribune that ran on this day, April 21, in 1954.

Anytime you are walking around the Chicago Loop in the vicinity of La Salle Street, you see Ms. FioRito or she sees you – at least it seems like she does.

Just 14-years-old, the young Madelyn, the daughter of bandleader Ted FioRito, was on her way to a job interview at the Fine Arts building when “a man stared at her intently.”  [Chicago Tribune, April 21, 1954]  The Tribune described the subject of the stranger’s admiration as “statuesque as she is today and built like a Greek goddess.”

Wooh.

The bad news is that Miss FioRito did not get the job.  The good news was that on her way out of the building the elevator operator (they’re still manually operated at the Fine Arts Building today) handed her a note.  The man who had admired her on the elevator ride up had written, “Please come up to my studio.  I have spent a year looking for a model for the statue of Ceres, goddess of grain, which I have been commissioned to do for the top of the Board of Trade building.  You are the model for whom I have searched.”

The man was John Storrs.

John Storrs was born in Chicago in 1885, and at the age of 20 travelled to Europe, originally to study singing but ultimately to make the decision to pursue sculpture.  He returned to Chicago where he studied under Lorado Taft at the Art Institute of Chicago.  He also attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts before returning to Paris in 1911,  studying in that city with Auguste Rodin.

An article from the Grey Art Gallery in New York City states, “In 1923 Storr’s solo exhibition at Katherine Dreier’s Société Anonyme in New York established him as a member of the international avant-garde.  While in New York he met Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Joseph Stella, artists he remained friendly with into the early 1930’s . . . Stors’s ‘Studies in Architectural Forms,’ as he dubbed many of his works, are exhilarating embodiments of the built environment and machine-age culture . . . Storrs created an art which melds old and new world concerns, and which convincingly attests to a society enraptured with the sleek aesthetic embodied in early skyscrapers.”  [https://www.nyu. edu.greyart/ exhibits/storrs/storrshome.html]

Enough of a resume, I suppose, to be able to select a beautiful 14-year-old model during a brief elevator ride and to use her form as inspiration for one of the great Art Deco sculptures of the age.

JWB Photo, 2009
Back to the article in The Tribune . . . it took six months for the studies that would lead to the sculpture that stands at the top of the Board of Trade.  During those months “Madelyn listened as he poured into her receptive ears stories of the world of art, music, literature that he loved so well – instilling in her the reverence that was his for the richness of learning.”

Everybody has read at some point the great love poem, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.  I love the last sestet . . . remember it?

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Forget for a moment that the poem is as much (or maybe a little bit more) about the poet as the subject.  It’s fundamentally true.  Miss FioRito eloped at the age of 18 and spent much of her life moving from relationship to relationship between Europe and the United States.  But she remains with us in a 6,500 pound aluminum sculpture, assembled from 40 separate pieces, standing 31 feet high at the very top of the signature building on La Salle Street.

She holds a sheaf of wheat in her left hand and a bag of corn in her right, prompting the late Mike Royko to name her as the perfect symbol of Chicago, along with the Latin phrase Ubi Est Mea – Where Is Mine?

John Storrs got his model, and we in Chicago have our Ceres.  For that we owe a debt of gratitude to the 14-year-old girl on the elevator at the Fine Arts Building.

So long lives this . . . and this gives life to thee.

JWB Photo, 2010

6 comments:

Mary Van Arsdale said...

Cool! Thanks for sharing!

Bob A said...

I had dinner with Madelyn, then Madelyn Jones, in Palm Desert,CA about 2 years before her death. Since I was also from Chicago, she told me the story, but her family name was LaSalle, not Fiorito. She married the bandleader Ted Fiorito. Their son, Ted Jr. Still lives in the desert.

Anonymous said...

Wow what an amazing story .. It's brings tears to my eyes hearing this story of her.. Thank you soooo much for keeping this story Alive.. She would be Sooo proud to know that this story is still talked about.. ♡

Kathy B. in So. Cal. said...

I am Madelyn's niece; my father was her baby brother. Her Maiden name was Lasala (it was changed to LaSalle when her father Carmelo [changed to Charles] came through Ellis Island and "the powers that be" couldn't understand his thick accent, so they wrote him down as LaSalle. Ted FioRito was her HUSBAND, not her Father. Aunt Madelyn's only child is Ted FioRito, Jr. and Cousin Teddy has a son, Ted FioRito III. Aunt Madelyn did NOT "spend most of her life moving from relationship to relationship between Europe and the USA" and I am offended by this untrue comment. Aunt Madelyn MARRIED once before Ted FioRito (cannot remember his name), then married Ted FioRito, Neal/Neil (cannot remember which spelling) Cole and finally Jerry Jones. It is wrong to speak ill of the dead, so I will only say that some of the men were NOT what I would call the best husbands they could have been. Aunt Madelyn was a STRONG, OPINIONATED, HIGHLY MOTIVATED and SAVVY business woman. Add to that she was a Taurus woman, stubborn but also very loving and generous to her many brothers and sisters. We were a close-knit family and holidays at Aunt Madelyn's home were always a good time. We put the FUN back into disfunctioal; proudly and loudly! I remember sliding down the grand staircase banister of her Bel Air mansion (924 Bel Air Road) with my other daredevil cousins while the Uncles made home-made Italian sausages in the kitchen and the Aunts prepared other dishes. Well, those days are gone as is my Aunt Madelyn, her Ceres Statue and all but one of her brothers, Frank LaSalle (Uncle Charles). I miss those days, especially at the holidays when I prepare some of those same dishes. If any of my cousins read this I wish you would add what I have forgotten or stories of your own. Whomever wrote this article should have done some "fact-finding" before he started typing!

Kathy B. in So. Cal. said...

I am Madelyn's niece; my father was her baby brother. Her Maiden name was Lasala (it was changed to LaSalle when her father Carmelo [changed to Charles] came through Ellis Island and "the powers that be" couldn't understand his thick accent, so they wrote him down as LaSalle. Ted FioRito was her HUSBAND, not her Father. Aunt Madelyn's only child is Ted FioRito, Jr. and Cousin Teddy has a son, Ted FioRito III. Aunt Madelyn did NOT "spend most of her life moving from relationship to relationship between Europe and the USA" and I am offended by this untrue comment. Aunt Madelyn MARRIED once before Ted FioRito (cannot remember his name), then married Ted FioRito, Neal/Neil (cannot remember which spelling) Cole and finally Jerry Jones. It is wrong to speak ill of the dead, so I will only say that some of the men were NOT what I would call the best husbands they could have been. Aunt Madelyn was a STRONG, OPINIONATED, HIGHLY MOTIVATED and SAVVY business woman. Add to that she was a Taurus woman, stubborn but also very loving and generous to her many brothers and sisters. We were a close-knit family and holidays at Aunt Madelyn's home were always a good time. We put the FUN back into disfunctioal; proudly and loudly! I remember sliding down the grand staircase banister of her Bel Air mansion (924 Bel Air Road) with my other daredevil cousins while the Uncles made home-made Italian sausages in the kitchen and the Aunts prepared other dishes. Well, those days are gone as is my Aunt Madelyn, her Ceres Statue and all but one of her brothers, Frank LaSalle (Uncle Charles). I miss those days, especially at the holidays when I prepare some of those same dishes. If any of my cousins read this I wish you would add what I have forgotten or stories of your own. Whomever wrote this article should have done some "fact-finding" before he started typing!

Cherise La Salle said...

What a great story thanks for sharing i loved hearing the history about my side of my family i would love to hear more. Madelyn was my great aunt I used to visit her every weekend at her home in rancho mirage .Even though I only new her for a short while before she passed when i was 11 but the time we spent together was something ill never forget .She was a very kind, smart , beautiful , funny , indpendent ,strong, wise woman . one thing that she told me that I would never forget was " cherise darling never let a man define who you are ". R.I.P aunt Madelyn