Those familiar with this space will recall that I wrote an earlier essay collecting examples of the famous and improbable “baby on the half shell” monument type. In its typical form it features a generic image of a deceased baby lying asleep on a cushion framed and backed by a half-scallop shell. The monument of baby Schaffner offers a good, if worn, example in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky (figure 1).

Figure 1. Baby Schaffner monument. Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY. Photo: author.

One occasionally finds the framing element of the scallop shell for funerary portraits of older persons, such as that of 11-year-old Minnie Hoyt, again in Cave Hill (figure 2). Both the Schaffner and Hoyt figures show how one type of marble used for monuments is being severely attacked by the elements in Cave Hill. One can see a comparable example, though not freestanding, of such a shell frame in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Figure 2. Minnie Hoyt monument. Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY. Photo: author.

Fascinatingly, Cave Hill features an astounding extension of the conceit in which the scallop shell has been replaced by a scalloped carving of acanthus leaves. This is in the Edwin Lithgow monument (figures 3, 4).

Figure 3. Edwin Lithgow monument. Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY. Photo: author.

You can see how the Lithgow monument partakes in the customary features of the baby on the half-shell: the child is imagined to be sleeping, it rests on a cushion, and it is sheltered as though in a crib or creche.

Figure 4. Edwin Lithgow monument. Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY. Photo: author.

The direct view in figure 4 emphasizes the sculptor’s attempt to reproduce the scallop effect of the border of the shell, though it would be easier to make out had pieces of the acanthus leaves not been knocked off on the left side.

The carving on the Lithgow monument is quite fine, a fitting companion to the larger Lithgow family monument immediately adjacent to it. This is what happens when someone likes the half-shell design but has lots of money to throw at the project!

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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