Kensico is one of New York City’s Quartet of outstanding cemeteries: Green-Wood, Kensico, Sleepy Hollow, and Woodlawn. A two-hour drive to Valhalla (the aptly-named exurb that hosts Kensico) for less than two hours on site is a good trade. Let’s have a themed tour, shall we?

Figure 1. Bielfeld monument. Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, N.Y. Photo: author.

May the earth lie light upon Peter A. Bielfeld. The gate to the mansion with many rooms lies open for him (figure 1).

Figure 2. Kroger monument. Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, N.Y. Photo: author.

The Kroger monument (figure 2) features a grief figure with atypical pinched features—normally they are either languidly open or languidly closed. One imagines she is pinching tears from her eyes.

Figure 3. Meyer monument. Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, N.Y. Photo: author.

We saw no fewer than five replicas of this profound grief type yesterday. This one (figure 3), though weathered, is the best carved. I don’t think I’ve seen this figure elsewhere: perhaps it was offered by one of the monument companies that have perennially clustered about the entrance to Kensico.

Figure 4. Boden monument. Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, N.Y. Photo: author.

I’ve published images of the Boden monument before, as I am studying the type. Yesterday the light was reasonably good and I caught the grief figure pensively looking away (figure 4).

Figure 5. Boden monument. Detail of grief figure’s face. Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, N.Y. Photo: author.

The grief figure on the Boden monument stands out against bokeh (figure 5) as she looks heavenward. See what I mean about languidly open eyes?

Figure 6. Pell mausoleum. Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, N.Y. Photo: author.

William F. S. Pell’s mausoleum (figure 6) is guarded by an armed angel ready to exact vengeance for desecration. An archangel? It appears to be a Christianized form of grief figure. The pose, with left foot hooked under the right, is a little saucy (or chipper) for a grief—not languid enough, despite the downcast face.

Figure 7. Maresca monument. Gates of Heaven Cemetery, Valhalla, N.Y. Photo: Christina Clark.

The identity of the Pell angel as an archangel is further suggested by comparing the one on the Maresca monument right down the street from Kensico in Gates of Heaven Cemetery. The Maresca monument is perhaps 200 meters from the George Herman Ruth monument. The figure is an allegory of justice: see sword, scales, and trampled malefactor. The hand holding the scales points upward to show the fount of justice. One imagines that’s Satan in flames being trampled, tensely struggling but unable to dislodge the angel. We can read further into the monument by noting that Maresca was evidently a judge (“Hon. Orest V. Maresca”).

The Reeve lions (figures 8, 9), symmetrically counterpoised on a slab, commemorate Elizabeth Reeve, “beloved wife and mother.” ‘Leonine’ carries positive connotations, but two male lions? Had one been female, I might have thought, “ah, one for Elizabeth and one for Mr. Reeve.” But it doesn’t quite work out, does it?

Despite my usual wry commentary on these monuments, these images were selected as silent commentary on September 11, 2001: I won’t insult your intelligence by spelling it out.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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