Daniel Chester French was one of the greatest sculptors in America’s great age of monumental art from about 1890 to 1930. Henry Bacon was an architect of high prominence. If you know their work as artistic partners, it will likely be thanks to their Lincoln Memorial at the west end of the U.S. National Mall (1911-1922: figure 2),
or the Samuel F. Dupont Memorial in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. (1917-1921: figure 3),
or just conceivably the Melvin Memorial in Concord, Massachusetts (1906-1908: figure 4).
The Kinsley monument in New York’s Woodlawn Cemetery (1911: figure 1) is small compared to those three, but not unlovely. The description in ‘The Book’ (Sylvan Cemetery, see bibliographical note) runs as follows:
[French] in 1911 contributed the figure of a stone angel sitting at a tomb decorated with flowers. The angel turns in apparent surprise; one hand with fingers open touches the low tomb with a kind of caress, the other with its fingers closed. The angel’s wings are spread open, its toes pressed to the ground prepared to rise. The setting is hollowed out beneath a curving architrave to suggest the idea of a cave or tomb, akin to the place where Christ’s body was laid before the resurrection. . . . Note how the angel’s right wing is partially in low relief, while the angel’s left wing projects nearly free of the back wall, as the figure turns. . . .Charles D. Warren, Carole Ann Fabian, and Janet Parks, Sylvan Cemetery: Architecture, Art, & Landscape at Woodlawn (Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, The Woodlawn Conservancy: 2014) 100-101.
French’s Woodlawn figure marks the grave of Herbert M. Kinsley, a Chicago restaurateur who had, in his later years, become one of the proprietors of the elegant new Holland House hotel in New York City. Newspaper accounts said he died under the surgeon’s knife in September 1894 after seeking treatment for a long-standing health problem. Kinsley had three daughters. One daughter married Charles Hutchinson of Chicago, and perhaps she and her husband were initiators of the memorial, for French’s account book listed the project under the name “Hutchinson” at $8,230.50. The name Kinsley is incised on the base of the memorial, and the sculptor’s name, D C French 1911 [no: “D C French SC 1911”], is discreetly incised on the stone beneath the tomb. A low bench is provided nearby for contemplation of the monument.
I would dispute ‘The Book’ in a few particulars. The ‘tomb’ (I’d call it a ‘sarcophagus’) is decorated not with flowers but with a laurel wreath. Peeking out from behind the wing is an hourglass: for if we “know not the day nor the hour,” that final hour is appointed for us where what is appointed must be. ‘The Book’ misses that the sculpture was, as usual for French’s designs, executed by Attilio Piccirilli’s Studio.
The appointed hour for Kinsley has arrived, and an angel has been sent from above to commend his life, this being symbolically done by laying a laurel wreath on the sarcophagus. The moping (rather than surprised, I think) angel has turned from the sarcophagus to return home; if it were surprised, it would be surprised by us visitors, but it’s staring off despondently into the infinite distance rather than at us.