In 2017 my wife and I visited our first Baltimore cemetery, Loudon Park. There I was charmed by the Joh monument in figure 4, and in particular by the female figure who sports a typical Gibson-girl hairdo. She’s not one of the myriad angels one sees, but rather an abstraction presumably standing in for the emotion of grief. Her nose has been clipped by a vandal, but she still has a nice face.
In the meantime, I’ve found three more monuments in the Baltimore area that approximate the Joh monument reasonably well. More strikingly, the three look very, very much like one another. All four commemorate families in which the male head of household died first, in a span of years from 1904-1908. I assume they were built within about a year of the principal’s death, and therefore I take those death dates as an approximation for construction or design date. They are:
1 The Shipley monument, in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, MD., of June, 1904. Figure 1.
2 The Watts monument, in Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore, of February, 1906. Figure 2.
3 The Painter monument, in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, MD, an outer ring suburb of Baltimore, of July 1908. Figure 3.
4 The Joh mausoleum, in Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore, of June 1908. Figure 4.
If you’ve seen another one of these, please let me know. I haven’t rigorously searched all the Baltimore boneyards, so there may well be others out there. Still, these monuments are large and distinctive, and I’m pretty sure there isn’t another in one of the flagship Baltimore cemeteries.
I’m a little surprised not to have seen one in any of the DC-area cemeteries, which I’ve been through rather more systematically. I can demonstrate that there was funerary-cultural overlap between the two cities (as in cases of the work of the McMenamin firm in both), so I think it is meaningful that this distinctive type is found in four exemplars in Baltimore and none in DC. My hypothesis is that the type was elaborated from existing ones by a local Baltimore firm (that appears not to have signed its work).
Well, let’s have a look at one. The Shipley monument, which seems to start the series, brings together elements that one sees elsewhere and ties them up in a beaux-arts confection.
All four monuments are effectively a slab of marble upon a tiered base with a canopy above. A female figure in the round is added to each in a conventional posture of grieving. The canopy form is common enough; the earliest I’ve found is the (astonishing, cast-iron) Watchman monument in Green Mount (figure 5), but there are surely older versions.
The closest example I’ve yet found in D.C.-area cemeteries is the McCormick-Goodhart monument (approximately 1924, figure 5a) in Rock Creek Cemetery. I represents a separate type of its own, as shown by another member of the type, the much better designed York-Read monument (approximately 1923, figure 5b) in Druid Ridge Cemetery.
The Rock Creek monument loses a lot of thunder by being at ground level, possessing a much reduced canopy, and of course lacking a figure. The monument has a certain stoutness because of the Doric columns, but the effect is to crowd the central slab. The stoutness is more balanced in Druid Ridge because the designer carried through several rules of the Doric order, which gives the monument a better sense of balance and proportion. Getting it up on three steps is a good move to start with.
Returning to the Shipley monument, its canopy is a riff on the top of the sarcophagus of Cornelius Scipio Barbatus (figure 6) with a frieze containing garland swags below. It’s raised upon four ornate Tuscan columns (see that ovolo molding in the capital). The Scipionic sracophagus is a handsome monument and you’ll have seen a million of them if you frequent cemeteries. There’s a fine one in Green Mount physically adjacent to the Shipley monument.
Our monument’s slab and canopy rest on a stylobate maybe a foot tall and only slightly wider in both horizontal dimensions than the footprint of the four columns with their bases. Below that is a rather wider, double-height block with a fillet on the upper edge. Below that is a block which has a concave riser and another filleted upper edge save for a vertical centered surface in front upon which the name SHIPLEY has been left in relief. Below that, another yet wider block as a foundation, beveled so that the exposed surface slants down away from the monument, and below that whatever concrete foundation the builder felt necessary. It was well built: the monument stands true even today.
A rigid symmetry marks the structure on both long and short sides. We would expect this with beaux-arts design.
The four columns are spaced 3.5 units apart across the front of the monument, and 1.5 units apart on the sides. My arbitrary unit is the width of one of the swags in the frieze. There are 30 dentils across the front of the frieze; the garland that drops on the slab beside the anagraphic inscription has 13 flowers. We’ll see why these rough measures are important in a moment
As mentioned above, a generic grieving female figure has been added to the front of the monument. The material of the figure, like that of the monument, is a granite which reads as a brownish grey, perhaps because of dirt or a little moss.
The first three monuments are quite close to one another in the dimensions of the monument and the pose of the figure. The fourth, Joh, monument is rather different and I’ll talk about that last. But upon close examination we can in fact split the first three into two sub-types. The hair of the female figure is the discriminant feature. Figures 7-10 offer profiles of the four figures in question. The long hair of the Shipley (figure 7) and Watts (figure 8) figures has been pulled back and coiled in a bun. What is more, the Shipley and Watts hairdos match lock for lock, even if the Watts cutter achieved a crisper look (see figures 7, 8, 11, 12). See the identical tiny locks at the nape of the neck. The Painter figure (figures 9, 13), by contrast, has her hair let down; it cascades in loose curls down her upper back. The locks of the Painter figure don’t match the other two at any point.
When we look at the faces frontally (figures 11-13) the same pattern emerges. Shipley and Watts are nearly identical, and Watts has been more crisply carved. My photographs are admittedly not exactly from the same angle, but they show how the Watts face (figure 12) has wider eyes with more carefully detailed cutting around them than the Shipley face (figure 11). The figure looks sad but maybe a little surprised. On the other hand, the Watts figure’s eyes are slightly mismatched: her right eye looks a little lower than the left, and it might even be rotated, as we look at it, a tiny bit clockwise from the natural. Well, fair enough. These were one-off carvings by humans, not machine-made. Still, in addition to the consistent match of the locks of hair, their gowns’ collars drape in exactly the same curves around their necks. It’s also worth saying: the faces belong the the same “person.”
The Painter figure’s face (figure 13) is differently shaped from the others’ for a start. It is a much slenderer oval and the chin comes to more of a point. The arched eyebrows of the first two monuments give way here to flat brows. The eyes are further apart, and they do not have the sleepy look of the Shipley figure, though they are closed further than the Watts figure’s. The Painter figure’s collar is larger and flounces limply into tightly closed folds that describe shapes like the letter “S”. And lastly, the left hand does not curl as tightly as the hands of the first two.
Turning to the rear of the Shipley and Painter figures (figures 15, 16), it is possible to see that the Painter cutter executed his figure to a precise set of measurements (see how the figure matches the curves and faces of the monument where it is “sitting”), but that he or she was free, or felt free, to carve the figure in any way as long as it had a predetermined pose that precisely matched its monument. The gowns are different clothing types, and the drapery is consistently different. The Shipley figure was cut by a more skilled artisan: see how instead of having a heap of drapery just fill in the space between the body and the monument like the Painter figure, the Shipley figure touches the monument at at least two places—her butt on the seat, and her rib cage, or the clothing pressed between it and the monument, touching the vertical riser of the stylobate. It’s more naturalistic and harder to do.
This point-by-point comparison could be carried throughout the figures, but I’ll spare you. However, I hope you will agree with me that the Shipley and Watts figures were carved by cutters who had access to a detailed model—I should imagine a plaster one—in the round. They are too similar not to have been.
Moving past the figures, other evidence points to a divide into two subtypes: The Shipley and Watts monuments have thirty dentils on the long sides of the canopy frieze; the Painter monument has 28. On the sides, Shipley and Watts have 19 dentils to Painter’s 18 on the short side. The 13 flowers that drop vertically on the Shipley and Watts slabs are 17 on the Painter slab. The similarities between the Shipley and Painter monuments are too great for the monuments to have coincidentally arrived at (nearly) identical dimensions and figure poses. There are many competing arrangements if you want a figure on your monument.
For example, the Hirth monument in Druid Ridge (figure 17), likely of 1908 but just maybe 1912, mounts a grief figure bearing a wreath on a little seat. She does not lean on anything as the Shipley or Painted figures do. Since she is “stand-alone,” the sculptor had to raise her right leg on a little footrest so that she could adopt the de rigueur pensive pose by propping her right elbow on her knee (see also figures 18, 20, 20a). There are billions of these that ultimately served as models for the Shipley and Painter figures.
And then the Blackshere monument, of 1908, combines a figure with a complex pose resting her left elbow on the altar-like monument (figure 21). There really were a gillion ways to try to achieve the effect. For what it’s worth, I suspect this was made by the same workshop that made the other monuments under discussion.
I thought at first the difference between the two flagship monuments and the Painter one might be put down to cost, but in fact, the overall dimensions of the three monuments are, I believe, the same, or nearly so. You’d save a little cutting twenty-eight dentils instead of thirty, but not enough to make a difference, I think.
One final element must be mentioned before I turn to the Joh monument. On the stylobate both the Watts and Painter monuments use a Gothical font to offer an affirming bit of verse (figures 22, 23).
Watts has opted for the Bible—always a safe bet—Revelation 14:13, in the King James version: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”
For Painter, it’s Thomas Campbell’s poem Hallowed Ground: “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” I recently found the German equivalent in Glenwood Cemetery (figure 24a).
There were manuals of quotations suitable for funerary purposes: one imagines the widows in both cases leafing through them until they found one that suited them. Mrs. Joh certainly did: the Joh doggerel, “Although he sleeps his memory doth live,/ And cheering comfort to his mourners give.” That appears on a fair number of tombstones around the nation (Google it), and in fact can be found on page 11 of one specimen of those manuals of quotations, from 1867, wrapped in the cover and advertising of the Johnson and Sherman monument company of Kalamazoo (figure 25).
Between figures 4, 10, 14, and 26 you can see how different the Joh monument is. The basic structure is the same as in the others, but the larger part of the beaux-arts gew-gaws have been omitted, the columns are now topped with Ionic capitals, the scale is smaller, and the abstract grieving figure is conceived very differently. The figure is at once modest and revealing, and since that is most interesting part of the monument we’ll start there.
The concept of the grieving figure dropping flowers at the tomb is an old one, and William Rinehart’s figure over the Walters monument in Green Mount Cemetery (figures 27, 28) is a landmark local example that our sculptor would have had to make an effort not to know about.
Rinehart’s figure (figure 27) was commissioned in 1865 and has a neoclassical face, hairstyle, and garb. I suspect that she is to be interpreted as an angel though she lacks wings, for she is in a non-classical traveling cloak, travel to give messages being what angels by definition do. To reinforce this Rinehart decorated her head with a little cross on a diadem (figure 28). Even ignoring the cloak the garb is heavy, though Rinehart was too much the neoclassicist not to clearly suggest the female form underneath the folds.
So, ten seconds of observation shows how different the Walters and Joh figures are, even though both are, broadly speaking, neoclassical. The Joh sculptor takes more opportunities to explore the female form. The clothing, which is heavy to judge by the way it drapes, reveals the shoulder and, though not sheer, reveals the contour of the body underneath, far more, for example, than the Shipley, Watts, and Painter figures do.
Still, I can’t emphasize how much the Joh figure caters to modesty. For decades and decades frank explorations of female nudity (or implied nudity through sheer drapery) had been extremely popular in America. A short trip to the Smithsonian American Art Museum to see Hiram Powers‘ The Greek Slave (1847-49), or Randolph Rogers‘ The Lost Pleiad (1874-75), or even Chauncey Bradley Ives‘ Undine (1884) will show you how far Rinehart and the Joh sculptor bow to conventional modesty in their work on commission.
But where the Joh figure leaps ahead of the other three monuments is in its daring placement of the standing figure and especially its right arm to block the inscriptions. Figure 26 shows this well. One must take the invitation offered by the obscured words to come closer to the monument and explore it to get all of the text. The other artists made absolutely sure that their sitting figures in no way obscured the text. Perhaps the Joh sculptor’s confidence arises in part because the monument is unobstructed and close to the street. This is not the case with the three others.
I am not going to make a grand claim that this beaux-arts design originated in a Baltimore workshop and was solely used there. A couple of examples found far afield would spoil that interpretation. But for the moment, it looks like one Baltimore workshop certainly used this type on at least 4 occasions, sometimes altering the design to suit context, or maybe to meet cost expectations. The type was perhaps not as popular as they hoped; they seem not to have exported any to Washington, D.C., for example. The Shipley and Watts monuments give insight into the ability of artisans in a workshop to generate close copies of complicated monuments. and those two as against the Painter monument show how the type could be adjusted to meet needs no longer obvious to us. And finally, the Joh monument shows how an artisan was able to infuse charm and interest into a bombastic type.