This was my daughter’s (to me, very funny) take on the Stoddard monument in Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia (figure 1).

Figure 1. Stoddard monument. Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA. Photo: author.

The Stoddard plot, like quite a few in Bonaventure, is articulated with glazed terracotta borders; in this case, they feature decorative pound (hashtag) signs (figure 2). Their almost insistent repetition right below a prominent Confederate States of America veteran marker makes #Confederate almost inescapable.

Figure 2. Stoddard monument. Detail #Confederate. Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA. Photo: author.

Stoddard, born in Savannah in 1843, took part in the Civil War, and was a prominent citizen. His father had moved down from Massachusetts and Stoddard himself married into the also-prominent Sorrel family.

Figure 3. Stoddard monument. Detail: inscription. Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA. Photo: author.

His monument exhibits a fascinating confluence of (ancient) Egyptian and Arabic signifiers. Though late for the Egyptian Revival, it does not stand out, particularly as a monument built in the immediate wake of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. The stylized bundled reeds that frame the sides of the register holding the inscription, the winged solar disk in the cavetto molding, and the columns with lotus flowers and palmettes (figure 4) are all part and parcel of the style and by themselves do not set this monument apart.

Figure 4. Stoddard monument. Detail: capitals. Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA. Photo: author.

But the Arabic inscription in the top and bottom frame of the inscription is unusual. The text appears to be identical on both top and bottom, and to repeat the same string of characters in both places. Put more simply, the same word (or phrase) is repeated four times in the frame of the inscription.

Figure 5. Edwards mausoleum. Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, N.Y. Photo: author.

It is possible to find Islamic revival architecture such as the 1925 Edwards mausoleum in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York, but the confluence of Arabic and Ancient Egyptian is in my experience rare outside of the Orientalizing movement, which was largely spent by 1924. I’ve only ever seen the two together in a funerary context in the Dietz Mausoleum in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska. There, a very competent Egyptian Revival mausoleum has in addition three Orientalizing stained glass windows which are copies of Orientalist paintings by Talbot Kelly (the one I was able to see dates to 1880: figure 6).

Figure 6. Dietz mausoleum, rear window. Tiffany and Co. art glass reproduction of Talbot Kelly (1861-1934), At Prayer in the Desert. Forest Lawn Cemetery, Omaha, NE. Photo: author.

I take it, therefore, that like the Dietzes, the Stoddards had a personal connection to Egypt which could be symbolized by Egyptian Revival architecture and commented upon affectionately by alluding to the people of the (then) modern nation by giving a snippet of Arabic.

Stoddard is referred to as a “planter” and as an investor in the Evergreen Cemetery Company (developer of Bonaventure) in William Bryan’s essay on Bonaventure (“Taming the Wild Side of Bonaventure: Tourism and the Contested Southern Landscape,” in Southern Cultures 23.2 [2017] 49-74). I do not find anything on the interwebs documenting anything like a connection between him or his family and Egypt.

I was also unable to secure a translation of the Arabic from my sources. Any assistance from the gentle readers will be immensely appreciated.

Figures 1-4: Nikon Z 7ii with Nikkor Z 24-200 mm f/4-6.3 lens.

Figure 1. 51 mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/30 s.
Figure 2. 65 mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/30 s.
Figure 3. 66 mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/30 s.
Figure 4. 66 mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/30 s.

Figure 5: Nikon D3400 with Nikkor 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 lens.

Figure 5. 20 mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/250 s.

Figure 6. Nikon D3400 with Nikkor 18-200 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.

Figure 6. 42 mm, f/9, ISO 3200, 1.25 s.

Figures 1-4 edited with Luminar AI, figures 5-6 with Apple Photos.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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2 Comments

  1. According to Aileen Das, who checked with a couple of native speakers, the Arabic is gobbledygook. I was hoping for “The South will rise again.”

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