In a recent visit to Oak Hill, I spotted the bust of Eugene Liomin (figure 1) sitting atop his monument, exposed to the elements. The bust is askew, as someone has spun it so that it faces not toward the front of the monument and the little path by which it is approached but toward the larger path that runs by this section of the cemetery.
This portrait bust (figures 2, 3, 4) is remarkable for the fact that, like the Raine bust in Baltimore’s Green Mount Cemetery, it is outdoors and has not been stolen. It appears to have been vandalized to the extent of having the tip of its nose bonked off, but I saw no evidence that it had been toppled at any point.
The bust was once a typical product of its age, presumably not long after Liomin’s death in 1862. Its surface has been badly weathered, so that an exact description is not possible. I did not notice an artist’s signature on the exposed parts of the bust.
A corpulent, rectangular face framed by a high starched collar looks out at us; the head is averted slightly to the left. The eyes are deep-set under heavy brows. Weathering makes it look like there are shaggy eyebrows, but in fact no trace of any original eyebrow system remains. The plane of the face is flat (figure 3), and the only signs of age to have survived the weathering are a slightly receding hairline, naso-labial folds, and lines dropping from the corner of the mouth down around the chin.
The ears are set back and not prominent, though they may have been more so before weathering took its toll. The hair is thick where it is not receding. There is a wave from left to right over the forehead, and some evidence of a largely lost system of locks over the temples. If there was ever any detailed system of locks on the rear of the head, they have long since disappeared. Unless I am deceived by the lighting, there is a lightly concerned look on the face caused by a contraction of the brow.
The collar of the shirt has been circled several times with a bow tie that has been tied in a smallish bow. A thick vest with a lapel sits above a shirt, and above that an even thicker coat with thin gorgets in the wide lapel. The seams marking the joining of the sleeves to the body of the coat are emphatic; here and there the cloth of the coat is lightly folded.
The inscription is anagraphic but not uninteresting. We learn that Liomin was born in France. The inscription calls that place Herimoucourt, in the department of Daubs (which is on the border with Switzerland). Nowadays, at least, the folks call it Hérimoncourt. We learn, too, that he was an adjuster of U.S. standard weights and measures. To me, among the most interesting elements is the giving of the place of his death as “Washington City, D.C.” The date, in 1862, meant that he lived to see at least part of the Civil War era in Washington. It was his wife who commissioned the monument.
The monument’s flat top is adapted to displaying the bust; yet the monument might have had an architectural cap and been indistinguishable from countless others. Put another way, it’s not really possible on the basis of the evidence at hand to tell whether the bust was relocated from a domestic setting to the monument, or whether it was specially created for the monument as a part of the overall commemorative project.