The Mt. Hebron Cemetery never disappoints. A couple of years ago my wife and I came across the tomb of Willie N. P. Lockhart (figure 1). It is touching and, for that age in that cemetery, modest.
The anagraphic inscription:
WILLIE N. P.
J & AMANDA L. LOCKHART.
Died March 11th 1870
Aged 12 Yrs & 9 Mo.
Our pride and joy of life forever fled
when we knew our darling son was dead.
At the top of the inscription, as a caption, so to speak, for the little figure in the niche, is the wonderful phrase “Our buddy, gone before.”
The figure in the niche is clearly a baby or infant, nude with a fat little body and an infant’s large head in proportion to his body. He has his right leg bent and his right foot propped on his left knee. The right arm reaches forward so that the right hand grasps the right leg to hold it in place; the left hand seems to support an object sitting on the right foot.
The figure is so damaged by the elements that it is hard to read the head and face, but I believe it is looking at the object on its foot, which I would tentatively identify as a book. So, the dead child was studious. But why portray 12-year-old Willie as an infant?
So, I can understand why a sculptor sells an infant figure, of course: sadly there’s need. And I can see a parent of a “child” using an infant figure on the child’s tomb, perhaps thinking “that’s my baby” in defiance of the prosaic logic of the child’s actual age. All fair enough. But if you’re going for the innocent baby symbolism, why carve the baby with a book, or purchase a baby reading a book?
You know what, let’s just say it’s a toy or a little box lunch. Even better, I think Willie is in the ethereal realm clipping his toe nails.
I’ve now found another buddy, this one a ten-year old, in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore.
JAMES H. CARLILE Jr.
August 12th. 1838
December 13th. 1848.
Little James—littler even than Willie—is depicted with a thinner, better defined figure, despite the corrosion of the marble. This shows, if nothing else, that different stonecutters in distant places drew this design from a pattern book, presumably having solicited the parents’ approval.