Harry Frederick Ortlip was an electronics mogul in the days before solid state made it big. Housed on the Main Line in Philadelphia and in Boca Raton in Florida, he was socially well placed. He died in 1980, and his body was put on ice for a year until Hilma, his wife, could have this mausoleum built. He was buried there on the anniversary of his death in 1981. Hilma joined him in 1990.

I therefore take the interior decoration of this mausoleum to have been carried out by Hilma, which explains, perhaps, the homely touches of the Christmas ornaments on the sarcophagi. The exterior of the mausoleum is respectable but unworthy of attention, and I omit it here.

This mausoleum opens up an entire category of funerary portraits I had not originally considered investigating seriously, photographic ones. I am still, as I said in the original post for my funerary portraits series, not researching those little ceramic ones that commonly got glued to the exterior of headstones, nor the etched images one finds quite commonly on polished granite headstones of the last several decades. I’m not against ’em, and find them very interesting, but they more or less fall out of the social milieu I’m investigating (the “mausoleum set,” so to speak).

Hilma had the very good sense to choose portraits from their later, but not very late, years: maybe the late 1960s, when they were in their 60s. I like the little flag on her frame. His photo, however, is growing round spots of mold around the lower right and bottom left edges. Both are faded. This points to the comparative ephemerality of a photograph as a commemorative item.

Still, the portraits as placed, in the corners, using the sarcophagi as ersatz pedestals, seem to me to be analogous in most substantial ways to sculpted portraits, durability excepted. Unlike the Harrah portraits, these two are not facing each other for eternity, but have been placed to be visible to us voyeurs. There are the stained glass portraits like that of Adolene and the Chungs that are basically photographs that have been translated—Adolene’s by a painter’s brush, the Chungs’ probably by some sort of printing process—to pieces of glass. These, too, are meant to be visible and in a dialogue (fancy academicky jargon there) with the voyeur at the door, but are, of course, more durable and physically a part of the mausoleum, whereas the Ortlip photographs are, or could be, less deliberate in their placement.

Here are a few more which are not complex enough to merit a separate post.

The Suraci and Troiano mausolea are in Roman Catholic cemeteries and belong to first-generation immigrants from Italy. Understandably, they exhibit imported tastes. The Post-Sanner mausoleum, in non-denominational Rock Creek Cemetery, has a display I’m surprised I’ve not seen more of: a soldier presumably killed in action with the funerary flag in a case below the photograph. The photograph of Paolina Suraci at the far left of the shelf is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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