A recent trip back to Glenwood Cemetery to catch fall foliage reminded me of an eternal verity about a landmark, richly appointed cemetery: you’ll always spot something new and interesting.

Figure 1. Scheuch plot. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

In this case, it was the fine portrait of Maria Scheuch in her family plot (figure 1). I’m also growing more interested in the landscape architecture of individual plots, which is why I offer you this sorta panorama-y shot here. There’s clearly not a lot going on in this plot compared to some. But at closer range, the monument is a bit more handsome (figure 2).

Figure 2. Scheuch monument. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The monument may have been envisioned as bearing two tondo portraits originally, or perhaps George Scheuch, who outlived his wife substantially, took advantage of the shape of the monument to have it adapted for the insertion of the bronze portrait in 1892. I suppose he always intended to get his own portrait made but (as happens) never got around to it, and when he died no one could be troubled to do it.

Figure 3. Scheuch monument. Detail: portrait of Maria Scheuch. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The portrait (figure 3) is of a handsome woman upon whom the signs of age have gently crept. Her broad forehead bears no creases, but the jowls are just beginning to sag, and the naso-labial folds are becoming prominent. The thin upper lip and downturned mouth gives the face a certain asperity. She has crows feet and is beginning to develop pouches under the eyes, most visibly under her right. There is a little adipose under the chin (I sympathise!). The eyes are widely open and look out at the wayfarer, though the head itself is averted a little to the right. The arches of the brows are not very prominent, and the eyebrows have been left as mere suggestive rounded ridges. The hair has been tightly pulled back from a central part, emphasizing the oval shape of the face. The hair is drawn back over the ears, which do not stick out prominently.

In profile (figures 4, 5), the flat facial plane belies the cubic geometry of the head. The signs of aging mentioned above are more visible in the right profile, and on the whole the right side of the head is better modeled than the left. The nose is straight and of medium length.

The gaze is frank and unemotional, bordering on stern. The artist has not attempted to infuse the portrait with any warmth or personality. I suppose that it was modeled from photographs, maybe one frontal, and one from the right; people adopted a fairly blank look in those period photographs. Between the hair pulled back and the dress buttoned up with lace collar (figure 6) I do detect a bit of a button-down personality. The cameo at her throat has been rubbed to the point that the patina has disappeared at its center.

Figure 6. Scheuch monument. Detail: Maria Scheuch portrait, clothing elements. Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

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