An astounding performance in Laurel Hill

My eye was caught as I was departing Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia by this unorthodox ‘white bronze’ monument (figure 1). It turns out to be an astounding and unexpected form of self-representation by two people in love with life and, more prominently, themselves. The monument has five tall sides arranged in an uneven pentagonal […]

An interesting Scottish funerary portrait

George Heriot (figure 1), a prominent goldsmith, left money at his death in 1624 to endow a hospital (= charitable school) for ‘puir faitherless bairns’ in Edinburgh. It has since become one of the best private schools in Scotland, sitting close to the main campus of the University of Edinburgh. On a trip last weekend […]

A funerary portrait relief in West Laurel Hill

Here, in his Sunday best, is John W. Forney (1817-1881), a Lincoln republican who served twice as Clerk of the House and once as Secretary of the Senate of the United States. His day job was as a successful newspaper publisher. If you had asked someone then, they would have told you Forney’s paper was […]

The corner problem

The handsome Rouss mausoleum in Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Winchester, VA, is a fine, attentively designed version of a Greek Doric temple (figures 1, 2). Built after Rouss died in 1902, it varies in a dozen ways from the most refined examples of the 5th century, BCE, yet it feels right in a dozen more. […]

Major General Alexander Macomb

“Died at Washington, the seat of government, 25 June 1841,” reads part of his epitaph. I should think that even in 1841 one wouldn’t have needed to specify that Washington was the “seat of government.” But otiose overdetermination is not why I look at this obelisk (figure 1). Macomb (1782-1841: figure 2) had a distinguished […]

Ware ye the steamers!

While not jolly reading, it’s nevertheless interesting—and fairly rare—to hear on a monument of an unusual form of death. In Prospect Hill Cemetery (in D.C.), there is a tombstone of Marion Hays Colerider who was “shot and killed” at the age of 17 on 7 December 1900 (figure 1). But here I am interested in […]

John Alexander Joyce Monument

“Poet, Soldier, Philosopher” declares the monument of John A. Joyce in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C. I figured that this promise, plus the bronze portrait of the man, made his monument worth a second or even a third look. There’s a lot going on here. Let’s start with the life-sized, freestanding portrait bust in […]

Laurel Glen Mausoleum

Anyone wishing to understand portraits in American mausolea must attentively study Laurel Glen mausoleum, the 1881 tomb of John P. Bowman (1816-1891), in Cuttingsville, VT. In this complex are five funerary portraits, all of which appear to have been commissioned by Bowman and put into place before his death. Below is a general image of […]

Alien skull on Alexandria tombstone!

Not infrequently I am reminded of the grim demographic realities of human life. All people die, even those close to us, and that is painful and grievous. Yet I find myself consoled by visiting cemeteries: as the cliché goes, when so many better people than I have gone before, can I really be resentful? Still, […]

Bennie’s grave

BENJAMINSON OFBENJAMIN & HARRIETT A.EUGITTDIED DEC. 6, 1888.In his 21st year. The anagraphic data’s dull recitation of facts does not prepare us for one of the simplest, most heartfelt codas I can remember seeing on a tombstone: “Oh for the touch of avanished hand,For the sound of a voicethat is still.” You will immediately notice […]