I’m one of those people who likes flowers, even when they’re carved representations. So I take rando photos of monuments with floral decoration (and leaves and stalks). Here are some I particularly like. I’ve used a gallery, so click on the ones you want to see. All of the photos are by me. Fancy B/W images!
Abbreviations: Arlington National: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA. Congressional: Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Druid Ridge: Druid Ridge Cemetery, Pikesville, MD. Green Mount: Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, MD. Hollywood: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Mount Auburn: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA. Mt. Hebron: Mount Hebron Cemetery, Winchester, VA. Mount Olivet: Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Prospect Hill: Prospect Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Rock Creek: Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Union-Flourtown: Union Cemetery, Flourtown, PA. Union-Leesburg: Union Cemetery, Leesburg, VA. West Laurel Hill: West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA.
Buried in her own mausoleum in West Laurel Hill, not far from that of her father and mother, William Scott (1867-1934) and Ida Morris (1870-1938) Vare, is the luckless Ida May Vare (1898-1920), who died of tonsilitis in Beijing, China. She had made the trip to accompany her father, who was on a trade delegation from the House of Representatives, to which he belonged.
Inside her mausoleum is a stained glass window with a portrait of Vare being guided by an angelic figure (see the giant, stylized wings) who holds a lamp of revelation. She’s being guided to peace, as the window states (pax). As in other windows, the detailed work (Vare’s and the angel’s faces, the hands, the lamp) has been painted upon glass pieces, whereas the rest is depicted by abstractly mixed-color glass pieces cut to present the parts of wings, etc. It’s actually quite pretty.
We know it’s her portrait because her name is in a register at the bottom, and because the face in the window matches her picture which can be seen at her entry in Find a Grave dot com. Also there is an exterior shot of her mausoleum.
Her father, who doubtless paid for her mausoleum, was a multi-term U.S. representative for Pennsylvania and was ultimately elected to the U.S. Senate in 1927, whence he was soon bounced when charges of electoral corruption caught up with him in 1929. You can see his smug image here, as well as a picture of his mausoleum.
I have by now seen many a funerary portrait. I’ve seen busts that were made for the mausoleum, and others that I suspect were de-accessioned from the family collection and lodged in the tomb. And, of course, there are the many bas-relief portraits, and even a few bronze busts that were built into, or atop of, a monument. I’ve even seen a few full length portrait figures. But what I’ve not yet seen is a monument with a niche built into its outer surface to hold a portrait bust on a bust foot.
Frederick Raine was from Minden, Prussia, born in May 1821, and died in February 1898. His wife Pamelia lived to 1911, and so I suspect that she was responsible for this monument. In any event, accompanying the bust are a number of conventional images: palm frond of victory for a life well lived; Easter lily for resurrection, and disembodied quill writing the deeds of his life in conjunction with the symbol of resurrection. The sum of it all is: “he was a good Christian (due reward to be administered).”
That he might have been, but what detains us here is his portrait bust. It’s marble, and predictably, since it’s exposed to the elements, it’s decaying. The face has largely melted, and while the clothing still possesses some sharpness of detail, one can see that water has attacked it wherever it could get a purchase.
The face is oval, though the tall forehead, merging into a bald pate, gives the head a round look. Short hair remains at the temples and above the ears. What is left of the ears does not stick out. There is a little adipose under the chin, and the naso-labial folds are prominent. The close-set, deeply carved eyes appear to have had crows feet. The face is clean shaven except for a walrus mustache that curls down around the corners of the mouth. The mouth itself is not wide, and with the close-set eyes it gives the face a narrow, pinched look. Not enough material remains for me to judge whether there were other signs of age: slackened skin, sagging jowls, pouches under the eyes, and so forth. The neck is smooth.
The clothing is the usual package for the late-nineteenth century: heavy coat (buttoned up) over a barely visible vest, with a bow tie with a fat knot over a turned-out collar. It’s not clear to me whether the collar ever had points or not. If it did, those vulnerable protuberances have not survived. The modeling of the cloth of the coat indicates a stocky, but not fat torso underneath.
The look appears to have been one of polite interest without an emotional engagement, which is also the default for these portraits. The bust foot is round and typical of these portraits. I was able to get quite close, but I saw no traces of a signature on the bust. I don’t think it would survive the weathering the object has undergone, but as you can imagine, I wasn’t about to get in there and shift the thing around to look.
And I could have, which brings me to an important point. The damage to this bust appears almost entirely due to natural weathering and not vandalism. I am frankly astonished that the bust is still there.
What does such an unusual monument tell us? Well, before looking for an answer, it is important to acknowledge that I don’t know whether the bust was created for this monument, or whether it was taken from the household and incorporated into a monument built to receive it. It is possible to say that the monument was designed to receive a bust. A niche like that serves a purpose and is not decorative in itself. There are plenty of obelisks that have bas-relief portraits on their surfaces, even in Green Mount, so there were models for the idea of obelisk-plus-portrait, even if not for the bust-in-niche type here.
One can point to mausolea with formally incorporated portraits of the entire family, or the husband and wife, such as the Bowman mausoleum in Cuttingsville, VT (figure 4) or the Harrah mausoleum in Bala Cynwyd, PA (figure 5). I’m certain in the case of the first, and reasonably sure in the case of the second of those mausolea that the busts were made on the occasion of the construction of the mausoleum to fill ready-made niches.
Then there is the Rouss mausoleum in Winchester, VA, where the mausoleum has not been adapted specifically to hold portrait busts, but busts have been added in a relatively formal way by placing them on seriously massive free-standing columns in the chamber (figure 6). They are not matched, as the Bowman and Harrah busts are (see the bust feet), and in addition, smaller busts of the sons of the principals have been placed in something of an ad-hoc way on a shelf at the rear of the mausoleum.
My working hypothesis these days is that Rouss had the busts moved into the mausoleum which was built on the occasion of his wife’s death in 1899 (he died in 1902), and that they had been household decorations before that.
I don’t know what percentage of the motivation for putting busts into a mausoleum was to have an image of the deceased that the grieving could take comfort in viewing, and how much was to leave a lasting “Ozymandias” record of him/her/themselves. Of course, mixed motives are entirely possible and probable.
Raine raises the same questions. Certainly Mrs. Raine, who substantially outlived him, had a monument built to feature a portrait bust, as mentioned above. She could not afford, or refused to pay for a mausoleum, but clearly wanted Raine’s portrait to be visible. But why not have the portrait carved on the surface of the monument? Was there an obvious bright line in prestige and status between portraits in the round and bas-relief ones? To be sure, a portrait in the round is more complicated and expensive than a bas relief. Yet we can find people of indisputable wealth or status opting for a bas-relief, such as on the Walters’ monument in Green Mount (in her case, in bronze).
Mostly, I don’t think these questions can be answered definitively. But I do look to Victorian sentimentality—think of those little lockets they carried around for decades with images (and maybe a snippet of hair) of dead family members—and the immediacy of grief in the face of the recent death of a (say) spouse as perhaps offering clues. Whatever hopes for immortality the portraits sustained, I think the survivor took comfort in being able to come to the tomb (something people regularly did then and now) and look upon a likeness of the dead. In Bowman’s case we have explicit evidence that he did just that.
A recent trip back to Glenwood Cemetery to catch fall foliage reminded me of an eternal verity about a landmark, richly appointed cemetery: you’ll always spot something new and interesting.
In this case, it was the fine portrait of Maria Scheuch in her family plot (figure 1). I’m also growing more interested in the landscape architecture of individual plots, which is why I offer you this sorta panorama-y shot here. There’s clearly not a lot going on in this plot compared to some. But at closer range, the monument is a bit more handsome (figure 2).
The monument may have been envisioned as bearing two tondo portraits originally, or perhaps George Scheuch, who outlived his wife substantially, took advantage of the shape of the monument to have it adapted for the insertion of the bronze portrait in 1892. I suppose he always intended to get his own portrait made but (as happens) never got around to it, and when he died no one could be troubled to do it.
The portrait (figure 3) is of a handsome woman upon whom the signs of age have gently crept. Her broad forehead bears no creases, but the jowls are just beginning to sag, and the naso-labial folds are becoming prominent. The thin upper lip and downturned mouth gives the face a certain asperity. She has crows feet and is beginning to develop pouches under the eyes, most visibly under her right. There is a little adipose under the chin (I sympathise!). The eyes are widely open and look out at the wayfarer, though the head itself is averted a little to the right. The arches of the brows are not very prominent, and the eyebrows have been left as mere suggestive rounded ridges. The hair has been tightly pulled back from a central part, emphasizing the oval shape of the face. The hair is drawn back over the ears, which do not stick out prominently.
In profile (figures 4, 5), the flat facial plane belies the cubic geometry of the head. The signs of aging mentioned above are more visible in the right profile, and on the whole the right side of the head is better modeled than the left. The nose is straight and of medium length.
The gaze is frank and unemotional, bordering on stern. The artist has not attempted to infuse the portrait with any warmth or personality. I suppose that it was modeled from photographs, maybe one frontal, and one from the right; people adopted a fairly blank look in those period photographs. Between the hair pulled back and the dress buttoned up with lace collar (figure 6) I do detect a bit of a button-down personality. The cameo at her throat has been rubbed to the point that the patina has disappeared at its center.
Time to look at some nautical tombstones with an astounding treat at the end.
The “Commodore” (love the scare quotes on your own monument) owned a commercial fleet and celebrates here a ship named for a member of his family (figures 1, 2). If you’ve seen one of these before, it’s likeliest to have been this one, which is a pretty hoary chestnut as these things go. The ship is a barque, I believe.
Another barque for Captain R.A. Wamack in Hollywood Cemetery. His square sails at the top are not quite fully open, so stiff is the breeze. But the sheets are nice and crisp on this stone even though it’s weathered, and the pennants are drawn rightly with the breeze, which is coming at us. It’s not clear to me that the Thornton flags aren’t shown trailing the mast. The treatment of the water is very suggestive here.
Nikolaos Charokopos either owned or worked on a cargo freighter. I flattened my photo to B&W to minimize my dumb reflection on it.
Lieutenant Commander James Marthon never forgot his touchdown pass in the big game. He was in the rigging of the Hartford, Admiral Farragut’s flagship in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 (figures 5, 6, 7). As in, “damn the torpedoes.’ I suppose the guy who takes pot shots at the enemy with a swivel cannon in the crow’s nest is as important as anyone on the ship, but Marthon was not about to let anyone forget it. One can imagine his table talk.
Very interesting is the lengthy, lengthy naval service record on the north face of the plinth. Most interesting of all is the broken column in the form of THAT VERY MAST atop which Marthon was once perched.
But I’ve saved the best for last, Captain Nathan Sargent’s wondrous foundering ship monument with the angel of death blowing the trumpet over it (figures 8-15).
I cannot get enough of this monument. The bow of the foundering ship, in sandstone, is in the last seconds of being overcome by heavy seas (figures 8, 9), and the angel of death sounds a grim blast over it.
The tan sandstone forms a nice contrast with the base in grey granite and the patinated statue. Unfortunately, the sandstone is beginning to spall here and there, though it is otherwise still pretty crisp.
The angel of death does double duty, standing in also as the conventional grieving figure that scatters flowers (or here, laurels, figure 14) at the grave. So, if you see it, in one guise the conceit is that the angel is present at the shipwreck sounding the trumpet, and in the other is present mourning alongside us at the grave. It’s a nice, multivalent conceit.
One should add that there is a metaphorical layer beneath the surface. The foundering ship is the dying (or dead) mortal—in this case Sargent—overcome not by the inexorable sea but by equally implacable death. In fact, Sargent did not go down with his, or anyone else’s ship but died a natural death on land, proving that the entire conceit must be read primarily on this metaphorical level.
The statue is signed by the talented and ubiquitous Hans Schuler, whose work can be seen in profusion in Baltimore cemeteries. He signs the statue 1911, 4 years after Sargent’s death, and accordingly we must give credit, I think, to his excellent wife Isabel Hill Sargent for commissioning this splendid and astounding monument.
Appendix I. The Grewe monument, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, N.Y.
Grewe lasted into the age of jets, so the ship is purely metaphorical, bound for a distant shore.
It’s a fact of life that human hands are difficult to draw and model. I was reminded of this as I perused my photos from St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Washington.
Two handsome mid-century monuments (figures 1, 2), well past the neoclassical and even art deco periods. The Peniston sculptor incised a fairly decent pair of hands in the figure of Jesus in Gethsemone (figure 3).
There’s one stray bit, I think, at about the knuckle of the little finger of the right hand, but it’s not a bad rendition of interlocked fingers, especially at a distance.
By contrast, the hands of the DiBuchianico Jesus (figure 4), in the same (but reflected) pose are, ahem, ‘mannered,’ to say the least. The cutter knew that he was not up to interwoven fingers—no problem with a little self-knowledge there. But everything about the proportions and articulation of these hands is pretty badly off. It’s a pity: the cutter has a neat way of doing drapery with some big looping curves.
The cover photo is of the hands of the subject of an Attic funerary stele in the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus. The photo is by Giovanni dall’Orto (with permission). Wikimedia Commons.
With a name like Schmucker, you’d think it had to be good, but in fact there’s something desperately wrong with Jesus here (beyond the fact that he’s been rendered in cartoon form).
Three monuments, three versions of Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s bronze Aspiration. Figure 1 shows the original (of 1926), in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo in a striking photograph by Doug Rife. According to Douglas Keister in his Going Out in Style (p. 122: see bibliography below), Frishmuth “sculpted” the figure in an edition of three in 1926. He doesn’t say it, but I infer that these were bronzes cast from a sculpted clay model, and that this is one of them. Google doesn’t seem to know where any others might be. [See appendix 1]
Figure 2 shows a sensitive copy on the Berwind monument in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. The excellent Sculpture of a City (p. 302: see bibliography) devotes a note to the Berwind monument. It was commissioned and installed in 1933, sculpted by the Presbrey-Leland Studios in New York. It seems, therefore, that Frishmuth licensed her image for reproduction, and this fine version in stone is one of those.
Figure 3 offers another version in the Manns monument (of 1944, I suspect) in Druid Ridge Cemetery, in Pikesville, MD. I don’t think anyone else has noted this version yet.
Frishmuth was a talented sculptor with a penchant for female nudes: she liked to explore the dynamics of motion, muscles in tension, and visually interesting poses. Her 1923 statue The Vine is on permanent exhibition in the Smithsonian American Art Museum (figure 4) and exemplifies her style. There is also one in the Met; and others elsewhere.
One might be tempted to think Frishmuth intended The Vine to be erotic, since it’s nude and the female figure meets conventional standards of beauty. That sort of thing is in the eye of the beholder, but if you step back and recall that it is lifeless bronze, you’ll pretty quickly see that the artist is playing with the shapes of muscles in tension, their attachments to bones, and the shapes of the bones underneath. To what ends can the human form be stretched? Can the human form be molded into an abstract series of curves? Can the pose be made visually arresting from all viewpoints? There’s probably also an abstract reference to the joy and freedom in wine and dance, but that’s not what I’m interested in here.
If these physical details of pose and articulation are what you’re interested in, you’re pretty much going to have to sculpt nudes or their equivalent, as in the Aspiration figure, where the cloth is sculpted to appear so sheer that it emphasizes rather than covers the female form. I’d describe the style as influenced by Hellenistic Greek forms like the dancing faun in figure 5. He was made to be interesting from all sides, too.
The dancing faun offers a study of the male figure (from the atrium of the ‘House of the Faun’ in Pompeii) analogous to Frishmuth’s study of the female form. You can make out similarities in the exploration of the twisting human shape, the taut musculature, and visually interesting posing of the limbs.
So, now we can turn to Aspiration.
The photograph in figure 1 is excellent in that it captures the statue in a light that picks out the contrastingly light patina of the flesh of the figure against the darker green background of the chiton and cloak. The light does not help us see the treatment of the torso in any detail, though. Nevertheless the photo reveals Frishmuth’s talent in the expression on the figure’s face and the turn of her head. It is clear that the clothing is meant to be sheer and reveal the torso underneath. The pose in general is of a figure straining to reach her aspirations while buffeted by winds of one sort or another.
By contrast, the winter light in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery when I took the photograph in figure 2 does a good job of revealing the sculptural treatment of the torso, though at the expense of the face, which is half obscured in shadow. So let’s have a look at the female figure here.
The pose, perhaps by dancer Desha Delteil, who modeled for The Vine, reveals Frishmuth’s usual interests. The figure is on point, with all of the muscles in tension. We can see this because the drapery has been carved with an exquisite sheerness that reveals and emphasizes the masses and outlines of the female figure. As an example of the former, see the shadows that help express the modeling of the torso (figures 6, 7), and for the latter, see the line that expresses the outline of the left hip, thigh, and calf (figure 8). The artificiality of the tensing of the muscles is revealed by the lack of tension in the toes—Aspiration is literally taking off (figure 9). This is a pose we see in the opposite direction in Weinman‘s Descending Night (c. 1915: figure 10). This business with female figures taking off and alighting goes back to classical models, but that’s the tale for another day.
I genuinely like the apse with its little clouds and stars that protects the granite statue from the rain. It’s a little stylized and maybe not consonant with the style of the figure, but, well, I like it nonetheless, and if the figure is going to reach, I suppose it ought to reach for the stars. In any event, it frames the figure better, in my opinion, than the granite slab behind the bronze in Buffalo.
The sensitive cutter of the monument was Ferruccio “Frank” Comolli, working for the Joseph Coduri Granite Company in Westerly, R.I. Comolli’s first attempt at the monument was destroyed in a disastrous fire before it was finished, in 1934; the second attempt is in figure 2. An image of the shattered remnants of the first figure’s right hand is printed on page 33 of Built from Stone, a history of the Westerly granite producers and their artists (see the bibliography).
Turning to the Manns monument, while it is better than 99.99% of all other monuments, it’s a different kettle of fish. Allowing for the scattered light which kills contrast in my photos, and my failure to get all my shots from the same directions as in my Berwind photos, it’s still possible to see that whereas the Berwind figure was sculpted by a talented artisan, the Manns figure was copied by a skilled workman.
The drapery is much more opaque and the form does not emerge as in the Berwind figure. It is also more voluminous to in fact de-emphasize the female form. The right breast is insensitively modeled—it looks hard and unreal, like a generic appliqué. The line of the left leg is partly disguised by folds in the drapery. I presume this was due to the decay of the neoclassical movement by the time this was carved, with fewer artisans able to sensitively work in the style; and perhaps a misguided sense of propriety.
Now my task is to get up to Buffalo in order to see the Rogers monument in person, so that I can make a more sensitive comparison between it and the Berwind figure. For the moment, it’s a pleasure to see a work of art on a funerary monument, and to see once again how much the final product in a replica depends upon the hand of the artisan.
Bibliography Fairmount Park Art Association. 1974. Sculpture of a City: Philadelphia’s Treasures in Bronze and Stone. Keister, D. 1997. Going Out in Style. The Architecture of Eternity. Chaffee, L, J. Coduri, and E. Madison. 2011. Built from Stone. The Westerly Granite Story.
In The Book of Presbrey-Leland Memorials (1932, Presbrey-Leland Studios), a catalog of finished projects by this very prominent studio, an image in black and white (figure 16) of a monument that looks identical to the Rogers monument in Forest Lawn (figure 1) is printed on p. 133 with the following text:
Miss Harriet Frishmuth ranks among the foremost women sculptors of the world and in this bronze for the Morton family memorial she has symbolized Aspiration in the uplifted arm and head of the figure which emerges from the deep shadow—the veil of life. PL24165 for Miss Harriet Frishmuth, erected at Windsorville, Conn.
A Book of Presbrey-Leland Memorials (1932, Presbrey-Leland Studios), p. 133.
There is a Windsor, CT, and a Windsorville Cemetery, but there is no web presence suggesting the existence of such a monument there. It is a nice photo of the statue when it was still the brownish-black of the unpatinated bronze. The photo would seem to be dispositive that such a statue existed in addition to the Rogers one.
The common fate of all mankind does not much bother me as I make my way through cemeteries. But I do get resentful when I come across tombstones made of a material that was destined never to stand up to the elements: marble, literally melting under the attack of acidic rain (figure 2); Victorian red stones rotting and spalling (figure 3); and slate monuments which also peel away in layers under the attacks of frost and water. There are also the terrible results of destructive cleaning methods, but that’s not my subject here.
Have a close look at the stone in figure 2: there were hundreds of characters on that stone, a veritable bonanza of idiosyncrasy, now hopelessly illegible to me, at any rate. There are the remnants of ten headings falling into two columns: do you see the traces of the large Roman numerals? Were these the ten commandments? The Bill of Rights? I’m betting on the commandments with expository material, but Agh!
Still, a fresh marble monument can be very beautiful (figure 4),
and the red stone, when crisp, has a very rich, even velvety feel (figure 5).
And as figure 1 shows, the slate slabs were, when fresh, quite crisp and beautiful, with appropriately somber coloring. One sees why the folks chose them. It was only after a few generations, when they saw how fragile the slate turned out to be, that they went to other materials.
But kudos to Anna Wills Baugh Brewster White (or her commemorators) for the choice of slate, the olde timey, elegant script, and the convallaria maialis, Lily of the Valley!
The Henry Caleb Spencer monument (figure 1) boldly declares that he and his wife Sarah Andrews Spencer have “entered the life beyond.” He entered in 1891, she in 1909.
I therefore posit that she was responsible for the texts, and happily, all he gets is anagraphic data and this head-scratcher:
“The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of uses.”
Which I’m sure it is, but for herself Sarah pulled out the stops: “author, educator, philanthropist.” So she got the last word, which the wives on these monuments rarely do.
Even when the men die first, their grandly formatted anagraphic data and laudations too often crowd the wife’s inscription into a comparatively small space underneath. Figure 2 gives a comically extreme example, where the wife’s claim to fame entails repetition of the name of the husband
CENTERED AND IN CAPITAL LETTERS.
The handsome monument in figure 1 betrays a heavy emotional investment in the rustic rock-face style, with nice crisp drafted margins setting the rustication off. But what makes the monument worthy of a second look is the wondrous little gate on the obelisk “beyond which,” presumably, they “entered life.” One imagines it is meant to be a literal representation of the gates of heaven. Here’s a closer view (figure 3):
The gates have little hinges, and spherical finials on the posts—heaven apparently mirrors gilded-age American style. There are even wee little steps up to the gates. This is the sort of thing Rudolf Bultmann was at pains to eliminate with his Entmythologisierung project, which Sarah did not live to see (much less imbibe). I count this very much to our good fortune, since the mythology is three-fourths of the fun, and Glenwood without such a wee gate would be desolate.
Four monuments in two cemeteries in two different cities. Each bears a version of the Masonic ‘all-seeing eye.’ But what eyes!
The two Green Mount monuments feature a column on a plinth. One sees broken columns frequently, but not this type. In order to distinguish themselves, the second monument buyer chose a different type of column—the monuments are right near one another. I couldn’t read the surname on the column in figure 1, which is, however, better carved.
Then, in Glenwood Cemetery, I spotted—both by accident—two monuments with all-seeing eyes way up the side of an obelisk. The Kidder monument (figure 3) is the better carved, though somewhat stylized. The Johnson monument, however was worth the drive through D.C. traffic, because it is a TERRIBLE DISEMBODIED MONSTROUS ORGANICALLY-REAL-LOOKING EYE!