Charles W. Soulas (1850-1931) erected a very interesting family vault complex at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania (figure 1). The monument is from the R.F. Reinhardt company out of Westerly, Rhode Island. The monument was cut in 1898-1899, and the statue was cut by Louis Ogeati.

Figure 1. Soulas monument and vault. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

First, there is the odd family vault which is affectively a ledger stone with skylights. When one looks down one sees a brick- (or tile-) lined shaft with a tiled floor. Loculi are in the walls of the shaft near the bottom. There are maybe five of these type of vault in the cemetery, and all of them are clouded over with moisture and grime. It is about three meters in front of the monument proper.

The monument, which cost $3,000 1899 U.S. dollars, is a distant variant of what I term elsewhere “An interesting and malleable monument type.” To contemporary monument providers it would have been a ‘columnar monument’ (figures 1, 3): it consists of a tiered base upon which rests a rectilinear mass with re-entrant corners into which short Doric columns have been inserted.

Figure 2. Sarcophagus of Scipio Barbatus. Musei Vaticani. Photo: Sailko. CC-BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Above the latter is an architrave and on top of that an Ionic scroll of the sort made popular in endless variations within American cemeteries of the Scipio Barbatus sarcophagus in the Vatican Museums (figure 2).

Figure 3. Soulas monument, oblique view. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

Ogeati does not seem to me to have gotten the lines of the grieving female figure under the drapery quite right. The face is pretty, but she seems a little distracted as she drops a posey over the graves (figure 4).

Figure 4. Soulas monument. Detail: head of statue. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

Well, of course she’s distracted: see, she’s got her nose in an iPhone! Oh, the times! Oh, the customs! (Figure 5)

Figure 5. Soulas monument. Detail of iPhone. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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