The House of Heydenryk | Our History

In Memoriam: Alex Gagna, 1921-2010

If Henry Heydenryk, Jr., was the president and creative force behind the House of Heydenryk, the legendary master carver Alex Gagna was its heart and soul. Alex Gagna worked at Heydenryk for over 60 years, longer than any employee in the company's history.

Alex Gagna
Alex Gagna

He left Italy during the late 1930s and eventually succeeded his beloved father Eugenio as the head carver at the firm. Alex passed away on January 31, 2010, and even though his charm, passion and skills are greatly missed, his artistry and legacy live on. His work is still on public view at museums and institutions throughout the world.

Towards the end of his life, I had the privilege to take Alex to a special exhibit of Leonardo Da Vinci's drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he revisited many masterworks that he hadn't seen since his student days in Italy. After the viewing, he was tired but I told him I wanted him to see one more work before we left. It was a beautiful Botticelli painting adorned with a stunning Heydenryk reproduction frame, a gilded Italian cassetta with an intricate pastiglia panel design that Alex had personally worked on. Alex had not seen the frame in decades and he immediately lit up, greeting the piece like a long lost friend or relative. The museum guard standing behind us was both startled and impressed by our exchange. He rushed over to Alex and shook his hand, asking him, "You made that frame? I always thought it was an antique! Congratulations!" That said it all.

Alex Gagna and Henry Heydenryk, Jr.
Alex Gagna and Henry Heydenryk, Jr.

It was an honor to have known and worked with Alex for over two decades and to call him both a colleague and a dear friend. If Yankee Stadium is known as "The House That Ruth Built," then our own House of Heydenryk would not be standing today if it wasn't for the great Alex Gagna. He will be missed.

David Mandel
President, House of Heydenryk

See also:
New Jersey Record, February 3, 2010: "Alex Gagna, Master Wood Carver and Gilder"