No, not Odysseus, the ancient hero, but Apgar. No, not Virginia Apgar, developer of the Apgar scale for infant health at birth but Edgar, the nineteenth-century politician who died young but well enough remembered that his pals put up a handsome memorial to him in his hometown of Ithaca, New York. Both died of complications of liver disease, however.
Apgar has a regular tomb in Ithaca City Cemetery which you can see at find a grave dot com. It is undistinguished in the extreme, and here we focus on his rather wonderful cenotaph memorial at the entrance to the cemetery (figure 1). It consists of a set of red sandstone blocks which have been assembled and carved into the shape of a tall bench with arms.
On the left arm, surrounded by laurels, is the inscription (figure 2):
AN UNSELFISH LIFE
On the right arm is a small carved frame with anagraphic information (figure 3):
*1842 † 1885
The back of the bench features a handsome bronze medallion with his likeness. Wonderfully, the medallion has been cast in the form of an ancient coin with a characteristically uneven border. The medallion is surrounded by carved representations of palm branches which sort of swirl up and around it (figures 1, 4). The collocation of laurel and palm in a funerary context is a typical symbol of a (Christian) life well lived. I’ve written at some length about this symbolism here.
Interestingly, the medallion is notionally held fixed to the stone by three substantial nails whose diamond-shaped heads can be seen at approximately the 4:00, 8:00 and 10:00 o’clock positions. However, the plaque, which must be hollow, was in fact affixed to the stone by two small tabs at the 3:00 and 9:00 o’clock positions, and these were subsequently hidden by small stone plugs carved to resemble the surrounding rock (figure 5).
Charles Michael Angelo Lang (1860-1934), a New York State-based artist, signed the medallion. He is “understudied” to say the least, but one can find him signing a painting “Chas. M. Lang” here, using the mannered capital C as on the medallion. The medallion signature is stylized, C. MLANG 1890. The M is in a ligature with the L, which itself is linked underneath to the A. No search for his name turns up this sculpture (or, in fact, anything substantial at all), so perhaps we can now formally add it to his oeuvre and someday put it in the catalogue raisonné of his works.
Viewed from the side and rear, the memorial’s structure as ashlar masonry that has been subjected to extreme rustication is apparent.
From the find a grave dot com website is a (somewhat garbled) obituary.
EDGAR K. APGAR DEAD.
Seriously Ill Only a Few Hours.
ALBANY, Aug. I5.—Edgar K. Apgar
Deputy State Treasurer, formerly Deputy
Secretary of State, was taken suddenly
ill yesterday afternoon with a complication
of liver and stomach difficulties, and
died at 2 :41 o’clock this afternoon. Mr.
Apgar was about forty years of age and
one of the best known politicians in tho
state. He was a close friend of President
Cleveland. It was his intention to take
an active part in this fall’s campaign,
had been a sufferer for several months but
by heroic efforts has managed to perform