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!
In 2017 my wife and I visited our first Baltimore cemetery, Loudon Park. There I was charmed by the Joh monument in figure 4, and in particular by the female figure who sports a typical Gibson-girl hairdo. She’s not one of the myriad angels one sees, but rather an abstraction presumably standing in for the emotion of grief. Her nose has been clipped by a vandal, but she still has a nice face.
In the meantime, I’ve found three more monuments in the Baltimore area that approximate the Joh monument reasonably well. More strikingly, the three look very, very much like one another. All four commemorate families in which the male head of household died first, in a span of years from 1904-1908. I assume they were built within about a year of the principal’s death, and therefore I take those death dates as an approximation for construction or design date. They are:
1 The Shipley monument, in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, MD., of June, 1904. Figure 1.
2 The Watts monument, in Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore, of February, 1906. Figure 2.
3 The Painter monument, in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, MD, an outer ring suburb of Baltimore, of July 1908. Figure 3.
4 The Joh mausoleum, in Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore, of June 1908. Figure 4.
If you’ve seen another one of these, please let me know. I haven’t rigorously searched all the Baltimore boneyards, so there may well be others out there. Still, these monuments are large and distinctive, and I’m pretty sure there isn’t another in one of the flagship Baltimore cemeteries.
I’m a little surprised not to have seen one in any of the DC-area cemeteries, which I’ve been through rather more systematically. I can demonstrate that there was funerary-cultural overlap between the two cities (as in cases of the work of the McMenamin firm in both), so I think it is meaningful that this distinctive type is found in four exemplars in Baltimore and none in DC. My hypothesis is that the type was elaborated from existing ones by a local Baltimore firm (that appears not to have signed its work).
Well, let’s have a look at one. The Shipley monument, which seems to start the series, brings together elements that one sees elsewhere and ties them up in a beaux-arts confection.
All four monuments are effectively a slab of marble upon a tiered base with a canopy above. A female figure in the round is added to each in a conventional posture of grieving. The canopy form is common enough; the earliest I’ve found is the (astonishing, cast-iron) Watchman monument in Green Mount (figure 5), but there are surely older versions.
The closest example I’ve yet found in D.C.-area cemeteries is the McCormick-Goodhart monument (approximately 1924, figure 5a) in Rock Creek Cemetery. I represents a separate type of its own, as shown by another member of the type, the much better designed York-Read monument (approximately 1923, figure 5b) in Druid Ridge Cemetery.
The Rock Creek monument loses a lot of thunder by being at ground level, possessing a much reduced canopy, and of course lacking a figure. The monument has a certain stoutness because of the Doric columns, but the effect is to crowd the central slab. The stoutness is more balanced in Druid Ridge because the designer carried through several rules of the Doric order, which gives the monument a better sense of balance and proportion. Getting it up on three steps is a good move to start with.
Returning to the Shipley monument, its canopy is a riff on the top of the sarcophagus of Cornelius Scipio Barbatus (figure 6) with a frieze containing garland swags below. It’s raised upon four ornate Tuscan columns (see that ovolo molding in the capital). The Scipionic sracophagus is a handsome monument and you’ll have seen a million of them if you frequent cemeteries. There’s a fine one in Green Mount physically adjacent to the Shipley monument.
Our monument’s slab and canopy rest on a stylobate maybe a foot tall and only slightly wider in both horizontal dimensions than the footprint of the four columns with their bases. Below that is a rather wider, double-height block with a fillet on the upper edge. Below that is a block which has a concave riser and another filleted upper edge save for a vertical centered surface in front upon which the name SHIPLEY has been left in relief. Below that, another yet wider block as a foundation, beveled so that the exposed surface slants down away from the monument, and below that whatever concrete foundation the builder felt necessary. It was well built: the monument stands true even today.
A rigid symmetry marks the structure on both long and short sides. We would expect this with beaux-arts design.
The four columns are spaced 3.5 units apart across the front of the monument, and 1.5 units apart on the sides. My arbitrary unit is the width of one of the swags in the frieze. There are 30 dentils across the front of the frieze; the garland that drops on the slab beside the anagraphic inscription has 13 flowers. We’ll see why these rough measures are important in a moment
As mentioned above, a generic grieving female figure has been added to the front of the monument. The material of the figure, like that of the monument, is a granite which reads as a brownish grey, perhaps because of dirt or a little moss.
The first three monuments are quite close to one another in the dimensions of the monument and the pose of the figure. The fourth, Joh, monument is rather different and I’ll talk about that last. But upon close examination we can in fact split the first three into two sub-types. The hair of the female figure is the discriminant feature. Figures 7-10 offer profiles of the four figures in question. The long hair of the Shipley (figure 7) and Watts (figure 8) figures has been pulled back and coiled in a bun. What is more, the Shipley and Watts hairdos match lock for lock, even if the Watts cutter achieved a crisper look (see figures 7, 8, 11, 12). See the identical tiny locks at the nape of the neck. The Painter figure (figures 9, 13), by contrast, has her hair let down; it cascades in loose curls down her upper back. The locks of the Painter figure don’t match the other two at any point.
When we look at the faces frontally (figures 11-13) the same pattern emerges. Shipley and Watts are nearly identical, and Watts has been more crisply carved. My photographs are admittedly not exactly from the same angle, but they show how the Watts face (figure 12) has wider eyes with more carefully detailed cutting around them than the Shipley face (figure 11). The figure looks sad but maybe a little surprised. On the other hand, the Watts figure’s eyes are slightly mismatched: her right eye looks a little lower than the left, and it might even be rotated, as we look at it, a tiny bit clockwise from the natural. Well, fair enough. These were one-off carvings by humans, not machine-made. Still, in addition to the consistent match of the locks of hair, their gowns’ collars drape in exactly the same curves around their necks. It’s also worth saying: the faces belong the the same “person.”
The Painter figure’s face (figure 13) is differently shaped from the others’ for a start. It is a much slenderer oval and the chin comes to more of a point. The arched eyebrows of the first two monuments give way here to flat brows. The eyes are further apart, and they do not have the sleepy look of the Shipley figure, though they are closed further than the Watts figure’s. The Painter figure’s collar is larger and flounces limply into tightly closed folds that describe shapes like the letter “S”. And lastly, the left hand does not curl as tightly as the hands of the first two.
Turning to the rear of the Shipley and Painter figures (figures 15, 16), it is possible to see that the Painter cutter executed his figure to a precise set of measurements (see how the figure matches the curves and faces of the monument where it is “sitting”), but that he or she was free, or felt free, to carve the figure in any way as long as it had a predetermined pose that precisely matched its monument. The gowns are different clothing types, and the drapery is consistently different. The Shipley figure was cut by a more skilled artisan: see how instead of having a heap of drapery just fill in the space between the body and the monument like the Painter figure, the Shipley figure touches the monument at at least two places—her butt on the seat, and her rib cage, or the clothing pressed between it and the monument, touching the vertical riser of the stylobate. It’s more naturalistic and harder to do.
This point-by-point comparison could be carried throughout the figures, but I’ll spare you. However, I hope you will agree with me that the Shipley and Watts figures were carved by cutters who had access to a detailed model—I should imagine a plaster one—in the round. They are too similar not to have been.
Moving past the figures, other evidence points to a divide into two subtypes: The Shipley and Watts monuments have thirty dentils on the long sides of the canopy frieze; the Painter monument has 28. On the sides, Shipley and Watts have 19 dentils to Painter’s 18 on the short side. The 13 flowers that drop vertically on the Shipley and Watts slabs are 17 on the Painter slab. The similarities between the Shipley and Painter monuments are too great for the monuments to have coincidentally arrived at (nearly) identical dimensions and figure poses. There are many competing arrangements if you want a figure on your monument.
For example, the Hirth monument in Druid Ridge (figure 17), likely of 1908 but just maybe 1912, mounts a grief figure bearing a wreath on a little seat. She does not lean on anything as the Shipley or Painted figures do. Since she is “stand-alone,” the sculptor had to raise her right leg on a little footrest so that she could adopt the de rigueur pensive pose by propping her right elbow on her knee (see also figures 18, 20, 20a). There are billions of these that ultimately served as models for the Shipley and Painter figures.
And then the Blackshere monument, of 1908, combines a figure with a complex pose resting her left elbow on the altar-like monument (figure 21). There really were a gillion ways to try to achieve the effect. For what it’s worth, I suspect this was made by the same workshop that made the other monuments under discussion.
I thought at first the difference between the two flagship monuments and the Painter one might be put down to cost, but in fact, the overall dimensions of the three monuments are, I believe, the same, or nearly so. You’d save a little cutting twenty-eight dentils instead of thirty, but not enough to make a difference, I think.
One final element must be mentioned before I turn to the Joh monument. On the stylobate both the Watts and Painter monuments use a Gothical font to offer an affirming bit of verse (figures 22, 23).
Watts has opted for the Bible—always a safe bet—Revelation 14:13, in the King James version: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”
For Painter, it’s Thomas Campbell’s poem Hallowed Ground: “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” I recently found the German equivalent in Glenwood Cemetery (figure 24a).
There were manuals of quotations suitable for funerary purposes: one imagines the widows in both cases leafing through them until they found one that suited them. Mrs. Joh certainly did: the Joh doggerel, “Although he sleeps his memory doth live,/ And cheering comfort to his mourners give.” That appears on a fair number of tombstones around the nation (Google it), and in fact can be found on page 11 of one specimen of those manuals of quotations, from 1867, wrapped in the cover and advertising of the Johnson and Sherman monument company of Kalamazoo (figure 25).
Between figures 4, 10, 14, and 26 you can see how different the Joh monument is. The basic structure is the same as in the others, but the larger part of the beaux-arts gew-gaws have been omitted, the columns are now topped with Ionic capitals, the scale is smaller, and the abstract grieving figure is conceived very differently. The figure is at once modest and revealing, and since that is most interesting part of the monument we’ll start there.
The concept of the grieving figure dropping flowers at the tomb is an old one, and William Rinehart’s figure over the Walters monument in Green Mount Cemetery (figures 27, 28) is a landmark local example that our sculptor would have had to make an effort not to know about.
Rinehart’s figure (figure 27) was commissioned in 1865 and has a neoclassical face, hairstyle, and garb. I suspect that she is to be interpreted as an angel though she lacks wings, for she is in a non-classical traveling cloak, travel to give messages being what angels by definition do. To reinforce this Rinehart decorated her head with a little cross on a diadem (figure 28). Even ignoring the cloak the garb is heavy, though Rinehart was too much the neoclassicist not to clearly suggest the female form underneath the folds.
So, ten seconds of observation shows how different the Walters and Joh figures are, even though both are, broadly speaking, neoclassical. The Joh sculptor takes more opportunities to explore the female form. The clothing, which is heavy to judge by the way it drapes, reveals the shoulder and, though not sheer, reveals the contour of the body underneath, far more, for example, than the Shipley, Watts, and Painter figures do.
Still, I can’t emphasize how much the Joh figure caters to modesty. For decades and decades frank explorations of female nudity (or implied nudity through sheer drapery) had been extremely popular in America. A short trip to the Smithsonian American Art Museum to see Hiram Powers‘ The Greek Slave (1847-49), or Randolph Rogers‘ The Lost Pleiad (1874-75), or even Chauncey Bradley Ives‘ Undine (1884) will show you how far Rinehart and the Joh sculptor bow to conventional modesty in their work on commission.
But where the Joh figure leaps ahead of the other three monuments is in its daring placement of the standing figure and especially its right arm to block the inscriptions. Figure 26 shows this well. One must take the invitation offered by the obscured words to come closer to the monument and explore it to get all of the text. The other artists made absolutely sure that their sitting figures in no way obscured the text. Perhaps the Joh sculptor’s confidence arises in part because the monument is unobstructed and close to the street. This is not the case with the three others.
I am not going to make a grand claim that this beaux-arts design originated in a Baltimore workshop and was solely used there. A couple of examples found far afield would spoil that interpretation. But for the moment, it looks like one Baltimore workshop certainly used this type on at least 4 occasions, sometimes altering the design to suit context, or maybe to meet cost expectations. The type was perhaps not as popular as they hoped; they seem not to have exported any to Washington, D.C., for example. The Shipley and Watts monuments give insight into the ability of artisans in a workshop to generate close copies of complicated monuments. and those two as against the Painter monument show how the type could be adjusted to meet needs no longer obvious to us. And finally, the Joh monument shows how an artisan was able to infuse charm and interest into a bombastic type.
A recent visit to Arlington National Cemetery shows that military folk go in for portraits of themselves rather more frequently than the rest of the population. This is neither good nor bad. I found fourteen of them (one is a twofer). The majority are bas reliefs with two busts in the round mixed in. I’ll surely have missed some—Arlington National Cemetery is a vast place.
As usual, I omit as a category those little ceramic photo badges that folks glue on their tombstone and, if I had seen any, I would have omitted photographs etched on granite. I saw only two private mausolea in the whole place, and neither had a portrait within.
Major General Henry Tureman Allen, USA.
On Allen, see here. He had an interesting life, exploring Alaska in the mid-1880s, Serving in Berlin as an attaché, fighting in the Spanish-American War in Cuba and the Philippines, governed Leyte there, went after Pancho Villa with Pershing, and commanded the American occupation zone in Germany after World War I. On his tombstone you see him commemorated for his leadership of the American Committee for German Children in 1923-24, which , says the Pedia of Wiki, distributed meals to one million German children.
Brevet Major General William Worth Belknap, USA
On Belknap, see here. This Princetonian was Secretary of War under Grant.
Lieutenant Cushman Kellogg Davis, USA
On Davis, who governed Minnesota and was later US Senator, see here.
Talks at the Treaty of Paris to end the Spanish-American War?
Gibbon was intimately involved in the final actions of the war at Appomattox and was present at the great surrender scene. See his photo at the Wikipedia page linked above: he was quite striking with a bow tie on his buttoned-up military tunic. Here he appears rather older, as a major general.
Captain Sanders Walker Johnston, USA
Sanders Johnston left no trace on the web.
But ancestry dot com has a passport application from 1887, when he was 66 years old: Stature: 5′ 9.25″ Forehead: medium Eyes: blue Nose: medium Mouth: small Chin: beard Hair: light gray Complexion: fair Face: oval
Yep, that’s the spittin’ image of him in bronze!
Brevet Major General Benjamin Franklin Kelley, USA
On Kelley, see here. I’m sorry the monument is at a crazy angle. It was blocked by another directly in front of it.
I wouldn’t want this guy angry at me, that’s for sure.
Rear Admiral Richard Worsam Meade, III, USN
On Richard Worsam Meade III, a nephew of George Gordon Meade, see here.
Despite his pavilion, the birds have gotten him pretty well. See how the finish of the bust is decaying.
Second Lieutenant John Jay Moller, USA
Moller, who died at 27, is unknown to the interwebs except for this monument. One wonders why he died in 1909. Natural causes?
Captain and Mrs. Otto Andreae Nesmith, USA
The Nesmiths also lack a web presence. However, his mother’s maiden name was Maria Antoinette Gaal, which should count for something.
She was from Providence, he from California. With his mustache he looks like he should have flown a Sopwith Camel.
Brevet Lieutenant Colonel John Wesley Powell, USA
On Powell, who needs no introduction, see here. The monument type is seen in a couple of places around Arlington and in Rock Creek Cemetery.
The patina here has decayed and the bronze looks a bit eaten away. It was probably once quite a pretty relief.
After serving as territorial governor of Montana after the Civil War, he returned to private life, became a baptist minister, and even ran for president of the US on the temperance ticket. Not much fun at parties, I ween.
Generally I am bored by religiously-themed funerary monuments because they are highly conventional—there’s little to surprise or delight in them. Sometimes religious art, for example in a stained glass mausoleum window, can be so well done as to be visually interesting. Still, for the most part, when people are in a mood to select religious ornamentation for a tomb, piety shuts their higher brain functions down and the platitudes roll forth. I am, of course, talking about American tombs of the gilded age here.
Which is why I rather liked this monument in Druid Ridge Cemetery just west of Baltimore. It is a pretty big boulder that looks like dirty granite. Figure 1 was shot with my camera held as high above my head as possible–probably about 8 feet off the ground. The inscription that whimsically weaves its way across the “top” of the monument reads:
THEY ROLLED A GREAT STONE TO THE DOOR OF THE SEPULCHRE
And below it is anagraphic data, likewise in a plain script that meanders as though compelled by the topography of the stone:
JOSEPH ANSON BATES 1838-1908 SARA NEWMAN BATES 1838-1909 CLARA NEWMAN TURNER 1844-1920
The cutter who came along and added Clara’s date of death in 1920 was very much not in the spirit of the monument—see the witlessly straight dash and the absurd spacing of the numbers, alas.
The main inscription is a biblical verse, drawn from Mt. 27:60, which in the King James version reads:
And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
Our friends the Bateses, or more likely Sara, after Joseph’s death, particularized the verse to themselves by making “he” into “they.” The conceit appears to be that the Bateses have rolled the stone over their grave, and like the grave in the biblical story, one day we’re gonna wake up and find it empty.
You’ll find any number of angels and or Marys at the tomb repetitiously dotting the landscape. Gutzon Borglum’s Rabboni in The Ffoulke monument in Rock Creek Cemetery is a good example (figure 2):
. . . and the Rementer mausoleum in West Laurel Hill avoids the worst clichés of the scene with some crazy perspective and the conceit that we are an additional (voyeuristic) observer at the critical moment (figure 3). Check out the surreal Hollywood-style angel inside the door:
The monuments in figures 2 and 3 are not bad, even if they are clichés. But the Bateses have avoided cliché by creating a tomb that capitalizes in a clever way on a rather unpromising verse (everyone else stampeding to later verses and the “reveal,” so to speak). The Bates monument is not showy, and it’s not high art, but I was delighted to find it.
Imagine my surprise. But ten days before writing this, on a visit to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, I photographed the marble sculpture in figure 1, the well known Sappho by Vinnie Ream. Yesterday, on a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, I quite by accident came across the bronze in figure 2. They are the same!
In 1878 Lavinia Ream (1847-1914), by then one of the great women in nineteenth-century American art, married Richard L. Hoxie (1844-1930), a man who rose ultimately to the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. army. It is no great surprise, therefore, to learn that they, as well as Hoxie’s second wife, Ruth Norcross (m. 1917; 1870-1959), were buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The didactic plaque at the SAAM states that the marble statue, entitled Sappho, was sculpted around 1870. This makes good sense, as the poet Sappho was a fitting classical subject to work on during Ream’s sojourn in Rome at that time. Hoxie must have admired it, for he donated it to the Smithsonian in 1915, one year after her death. He lived until 1930, and the style of the grave marker makes one suspect that he, and not Ruth (who lived until 1959), commissioned it.
Ream is most famous for her statue of Abraham Lincoln in the U.S. Capitol (figure 3) . . .
. . . but cemetery creepers will remember her bronze portrait bust of Edwin B. Hay in Washington D.C.’s Rock Creek Cemetery (figure 4).
Never mind the fact that Hay looks like Bela Lugosi (or Kemal Ataturk) and that a stray cocoon lodged between his lips looks like a protuberant snaggletooth. It is certainly different from the neoclassicizing style of her other work shown here, not least in her prominent leaving of tool marks on the clay bust from which the bronze was cast. But let’s leave Hay aside for another post.
The base of the Hoxie monument (figure 5) seems made for the statue; and in a privileged space there is a portrait of Ream (figure 8), which I take to indicate that her death was the reason for the season in this monument.
Ream clearly worked comfortably in bronze, and bronze was attractive in that bronze statues could be reproduced much more easily by just casting a new one. Yet she had cut her teeth on stonework, with the Lincoln statue and a bust of him which had preceded it. Since the Sappho is (tentatively) identified as having been sculpted in 1870, the time she was in Rome and working in marble on Lincoln, I take it to antedate the bronze version. I think we might be able to say more: see below.
The two versions are identical to the extent their respective media permit it. There is even the title and the phrase VINNIE REAM FECIT (“Vinnie Ream made it”) on the side of the base of each. Yet her pride in her Latin was matched by a Greek inscription, not of exacting precision, quoting a few lines by Sappho herself (figure 6). These are omitted on the bronze version, as though they hadn’t been noticed or were beyond the skills of the worker to reproduce.
On the statue (figure 6) the Greek is as follows, although I have placed acute accents where Ream placed only dots above letters.
“When you have died, you will lie there, and there will no longer be any memory of you . . .”
Anne Carson, a more sensitive translator of Sappho than I, offers this version of these lines in her book If not, Winter: “Dead you will lie, and never memory of you will there be . . .”
One would expect that if Ream had done the bronze herself she would have done more to explore what the medium was capable of in distinction to the marble, and included the Greek text (figure 7).
I suspect, therefore, that Hoxie had the statue copied from the marble original into bronze and placed upon the family monument when Vinnie died. The sentiment in Greek on the marble original had the appropriate elegiac connotations. There were certainly artisans capable of copying works at the major foundries, but they might have overlooked or avoided the Greek.
There might even have been assistance from George Julius Zolnay (1863-1949), another prominent figure in American art. He had assisted in founding Ream’s final work, unfinished when she died. We also find his work on the Hoxie monument in the plaque (figure 8) I mentioned above: figure 9 shows his signature.
The date is unclear to me from my photo here and from others I took. I’m betting it’s 1919 or something close.
The tribute inscription on the plaque is more legible: Vinnie Ream Words that would praise thee Are impotent
and comes from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Insufficiency (the one in her 1850 collection), a poem once again suited to a tomb (though that is not what the poem envisions):
There is no one beside thee, and no one above thee; Thou standest alone, as the nightingale sings! And my words that would praise thee are impotent things, For none can express thee, though all should approve thee. I love thee so, dear, that I only can love thee.
Say, what can I do for thee? Weary thee? grieve thee? Lean on thy shoulder, new burdens to add? Weep my tears over thee, making thee sad? Oh, hold me not, love me not! let me retrieve thee. I love thee so, dear, that I only can leave thee.
The bronze portrait in low relief is attractive and almost certainly from a photograph. I cannot find the exact image from which the bronze was modeled, but it is very like quite a few photos (and paintings) that survive. Figure 10 is a good example.
The intense eyes, which Zolnay did not capture, are also in an image from the early 1860s in figure 11. Zolnay also did not capture the asymmetry of Ream’s face, at least to my eye.
The fine photos by Susan Stierch in figures 1 and 2 show the Anna Victoria Houser monument in Rock Creek Cemetery. Below is the description written for the Smithsonian’s catalog of American paintings and sculpture by Mr. Michael Richman in about 1969.
Michael Richman, Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 1967-69.
Richman must have worked from a photograph that caught about as much of the monument as we see in figures 1 and 2, and that was taken from a lower angle, because he’s wrong on two counts that would be impossible had he inspected the statue in person.
First, the base has a much more complicated shape than “rectangular,” as my admittedly poor photograph shows (figure 3). Rectilinear, almost, but rectangular, no. Richman must only have had a photo showing the top of the base and he guessed that it was a rectangular plinth all the way to the soil. His description, in the authoritative SAAM inventory, has been picked up in the Pedia of Wiki and elsewhere and shows the real danger both in relying on the Pedia and, less obviously, of speaking about a monument one has not inspected, and carefully, at that.
Second, the mother is not pointing at the page of the open book. You can just see that if you were looking at a photo taken from a low angle, and you were not troubled by a woman having one arm a foot longer than the other with the long arm’s hand much smaller than the other’s, you might rush to the conclusion that the older woman is the one pointing. But just walking up to the monument and looking from head height (or even better, stepping up onto the step on the base), it is perfectly clear that the child is pointing (figure 4).
So, Anna Houser died at age 11 (figure 5). Her mother, Helen L. Houser, died in 1934 and is also commemorated on the monument. Let’s look at the sculpture.
Two free-standing figures are seated beside one another on a rustic rock “bench.” An older woman on the left has her right arm around the back of a girl; the right hand rests on the girl’s shoulder. The woman’s left arm drops loosely across her body and her left hand rests open and loosely on her right thigh. The woman’s legs, covered in a long heavy skirt, are not crossed, and only the tip of the right shoe, because the right leg is extended forward, can be seen poking out. There is a hint of the left shoe just under the hem of the dress. The skirt is gathered into pleats and cinched under the bust. A loose blouse with a long, scalloped collar is right on target for 1910s women’s style, whereas the Sears catalogues and other fashion advertisements available on line suggest that the long, open (and similarly scalloped) sleeves were more typical of the 1900s.
The woman’s face lacks definition, perhaps because of the poor contrast afforded by the light Barre granite, and difficulty cutting the same. It appears youthful. Still, the thin oval face, tending to squarish, has closed, and perhaps slightly pursed lips, a regularly formed nose, and eyes that are not deep set, under broad arching brows. The eyes are closed in the manner of someone imagining something, and the lightly pursed lips reinforce the sense of effort at recollection, as does the fact of the head being slightly down cast. The neck descends into the loose collar which closes well above the bust. The woman’s long hair is gathered and twisted into a bun behind the head. The hair is loosely pulled back, covering the ears, so that it frames the face with an undulating outline.
The girl is at an angle, pulled close by the woman. Her head comes close to the woman’s right breast without touching it. The face is plumper but closely approximates the woman’s in shape. The eyes are more deeply set under flatter brows. The lips are drawn into a smile, and there are youthful dimples to the sides of the mouth. The head is averted lightly to the right, and the incised pupils direct their gaze directly outward into a perhaps infinite distance. The left eye appears to have been treated differently from the right: it’s closed more narrowly and its left corner extends further around the turn of the head.
The girl’s hair is loose and falls in many long twisting locks from the crown of the head to mid-chest level. As with the woman’s hair, the sculptor has incised lines to give a hint of strands of hair. The girl wears a one-piece dress with a high neckline. A pendant on a bead necklace falls just to the neckline. The dress is approximately knee length, and has short sleeves. She wears socks to just below the calves, and below that buckled shoes.
Charmingly, the right sock is falling. The legs are crossed at the ankle, with the right foot tucked behind the left. A fat, open book rests in the girl’s lap, open at about midpoint. The girl’s right hand rests flat on the open recto, her finger pointing to a spot well down the verso.
The anecdotal story here must elude us. Still, maybe we can say one or two things, because the sculptor seems to have been very intentional. The pair sitting together are clearly the mother and daughter commemorated on the monument. I guess Anna looks about ten or eleven years old. The scene invites us to think that they are reading together, or Anna has been reading to her mother, since she has the book. Her finger marks the place she has stopped reading: her mouth is closed, so she’s not reading now, and her gaze is in any event directed way out into some imaginary realm. So she is rapt with attention to the story. The mother has her eyes closed, perhaps as though she had been listening to the girl read. It might also be read as a look of satisfaction. There is no tension between the two figures, or in either separately.
Still, a monument that mechanically repeats an anecdotal scene from life falls short of its potential. That fat book looks to me like a Bible, and the pointing finger seems to show that it was being read attentively. The girl looks into the distance, perhaps having ingested a comforting spiritual thought, and her look is both rapt and pleased. I can’t help but think that the mother is trying to stoically cover up an unhappy look. Does she know that her daughter is dying? Is she at once distressed and also comforted by her daughter’s (and her own) acceptance of Christian metaphysical promises? That’s a reach, but I do have a hard time reading the mother’s enigmatic expression otherwise. I could even go out on a limb and envision the mother shown after Anna had died, with the scene in her mind taking life in stone—the Anna would be imaginary.
Looking to find a grave dot com, there is a story taken from the Washington Times on 19 May 1918 in which Anna and her fellow girl scouts had collected money for the war effort. The find a grave contributor adds (without telling us it also comes form archival news stories) that the statue imitates the fact that Anna and Helen often read together in life; that she loved to ride her horse “Dapple”; and that she had lived at 1217 Vermont Ave., NW. Her father was Edward Keller Houser, a philanthropist. The contributor also guesses (a word I stress) that she might have died of the influenza in 1918.
We’re still left with the enigma: how did she die? What’s with the look on the mother’s face?
Harry Frederick Ortlip was an electronics mogul in the days before solid state made it big. Housed on the Main Line in Philadelphia and in Boca Raton in Florida, he was socially well placed. He died in 1980, and his body was put on ice for a year until Hilma, his wife, could have this mausoleum built. He was buried there on the anniversary of his death in 1981. Hilma joined him in 1990.
I therefore take the interior decoration of this mausoleum to have been carried out by Hilma, which explains, perhaps, the homely touches of the Christmas ornaments on the sarcophagi. The exterior of the mausoleum is respectable but unworthy of attention, and I omit it here.
This mausoleum opens up an entire category of funerary portraits I had not originally considered investigating seriously, photographic ones. I am still, as I said in the original post for my funerary portraits series, not researching those little ceramic ones that commonly got glued to the exterior of headstones, nor the etched images one finds quite commonly on polished granite headstones of the last several decades. I’m not against ’em, and find them very interesting, but they more or less fall out of the social milieu I’m investigating (the “mausoleum set,” so to speak).
Hilma had the very good sense to choose portraits from their later, but not very late, years: maybe the late 1960s, when they were in their 60s. I like the little flag on her frame. His photo, however, is growing round spots of mold around the lower right and bottom left edges. Both are faded. This points to the comparative ephemerality of a photograph as a commemorative item.
Still, the portraits as placed, in the corners, using the sarcophagi as ersatz pedestals, seem to me to be analogous in most substantial ways to sculpted portraits, durability excepted. Unlike the Harrah portraits, these two are not facing each other for eternity, but have been placed to be visible to us voyeurs. There are the stained glass portraits like that of Adolene and the Chungs that are basically photographs that have been translated—Adolene’s by a painter’s brush, the Chungs’ probably by some sort of printing process—to pieces of glass. These, too, are meant to be visible and in a dialogue (fancy academicky jargon there) with the voyeur at the door, but are, of course, more durable and physically a part of the mausoleum, whereas the Ortlip photographs are, or could be, less deliberate in their placement.
Here are a few more which are not complex enough to merit a separate post.
The Suraci and Troiano mausolea are in Roman Catholic cemeteries and belong to first-generation immigrants from Italy. Understandably, they exhibit imported tastes. The Post-Sanner mausoleum, in non-denominational Rock Creek Cemetery, has a display I’m surprised I’ve not seen more of: a soldier presumably killed in action with the funerary flag in a case below the photograph. The photograph of Paolina Suraci at the far left of the shelf is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
The Harrington mausoleum in West Laurel Hill (figure 1) is quite a long way along the path from early 20th century neoclassicism towards modernism. Classical elements have been pared away and etiolated to the point that columns which might have framed the doorway are reduced to flat etched geometrical lines, the capitals now simple quadratic floral designs, the architrave a mere line marked by little cubes like dentils. Of course, the artist has buried Latin crosses in the art deco floral capitals—it’s almost impressionistic the way a column is evoked.
Figure 2 gives greater detail and reveals that the door, while it has little panels with florals or crosses, reads at any distance like an abstract geometric pattern of horizontals and verticals like a mesh with door frames around the mesh and rectangular panels at every crossing of a vertical and a horizontal. The architect has played in dividing the verticals and horizontals into striated bands of smaller lines, and the horizontals pick up the horizontal “flutes” of the notional columns framing the door. Again, the top panels, with their crosses, pick up and echo the panels forming the “capitals” of the columns.
And if you thought there was the least possibility that these design elements fell into place by chance, see how they have been systematically repeated in the stained glass window (figure 3), which I regret I was unable to photograph in its entirety. But in any event, the panels here mirror and echo those on the door.
Needless to say, my interest is focused on what seems to be the funerary portrait of a junior member of the Harrington family (figure 4).
Before getting to the portrait itself, I have to ask aloud, what on earth is going on with this girl’s papal tiara with the triple crown and lappets? This is the oddest portrait I’ve yet seen, I think. I suppose that cone atop could be a mass of coiled hair.
In any event, this female face is oval with a pointed chin. The shape of the face betrays no signs of age. The mouth has large lips in a gentle smile, the nose is straight and long; the eyes are gently closed. The head is cast down slightly and lightly averted to the right. Large chunky locks fall onto the forehead from the cone of hair above, with a broad fork over the nose. Locks hide almost all of both ears, and long locks fall, one on each side, to the shoulders in mannered curves that recall traditional depictions of ribbons notionally flapping in the breeze as a decorative element.
With the exception of the bangs and the two curving locks mentioned, the hair has been gathered into a thick mass and coiled above the head, held in place by a wide ribbon coming round the head just above the forehead. The end of the ribbon are the lappets I mentioned above.
The figure has a low neckline and wears a three-piece pendant on a (maybe) pearl necklace. The impression of youthfulness is supported by the cut of the dress and the undeveloped bust. There is a rose at the center of the neckline which may carry the idea of life cut short (the rose broken or cut from its stem is a cliché for this idea). The dress tightly wraps the torso below the bust, and the figure is trimmed in a V shape of diagonals that descend from just outside the shoulder down to about the bottom of the sternum.
Avery D. Harrington was born in 1858 took on several careers (including a 4-year stint as a public school principal in Delaware), before he became an attorney, and died in 1925. The death certificate at ancestry dot com says he was taken to West Laurel Hill. His wife, Emma, died in 1933. West Laurel Hill has a record stating that Avery Harrington was buried in 1937. Harrington had a public school in Philadelphia, at 53rd and Baltimore, named for him in 1928.
There was an Avery Draper Harrington, jr., who was born in 1899 and went to Swarthmore. There, as a junior in 1922, he was quoted saying, “a crank is a little thing that makes revolutions,” in The Halcyon, which was the junior year yearbook. I note with approval that he was in the Classical Club. He became a doctor and died in 1969. The latter’s son, Louis Draper Harrington, born 1939, was a judge. Louis’s wedding announcement in the Friends Journal for 01 August 1966 states that he and his parents were Quakers based at the Lansdowne, PA, Meeting. It seems he is still alive and living in Rockville, MD. Hi, Louis!What’s up with the portrait in the family mausoleum? He had several children. Nowhere do I find a likely, prematurely dead female member of the family listed.
My guess, based solely upon the dates, is that Avery Harrington, jr., caused the mausoleum in question to he built when his mother died, and when it was finished had his father, who had been buried at West Laurel Hill in 1925, exhumed and put in the mausoleum with her. Certainly the 1937 date fits with the etiolated Art Deco style. The style of the portrait bust seems to me to long antedate the building of the mausoleum; this comes as close as I can find to the scenario where a descendant removed an ancestral bust to the family crypt.
The P.M. Klein mausoleum (figure 1) is, from the outside, only a little different from half a dozen others at West Laurel Hill Cemetery. Full points are given for the bundled papyrus reed columns, which are slightly rarer than the regular lotus-themed ones. The Lennig mausoleum in Laurel Hill (figure 2) is another example, although it is very streamlined and employs a striking onionskin marble to dramatic effect.
Mad props, too, go to Klein for purchasing the “extended pack” of revival decorations, exampled here by the ankh door pull (figure 3).
Though due credit ought to be given to the Drake mausoleum with its sly smiling COBRA HANDLE! (figure 4)
But if the Klein mausoleum stands out against its Egyptian revival brethren, it’s in its magnificent stained glass window (figure 5), which is, in my experience to date, unique.
The window has clearly been assembled using some ready-made pieces for the borders and the horizontal band at the bottom. Very nice, even there, is the brownish sand coloring. Also, the winged solar disc with uraeus snakes at top, usually found over the doors of these revival mausolea (including this one), really pops with the red art glass for the solar disc.
But of course your attention was immediately seized by the wonderful desert scene with pyramids and fallen column. I suppose this could be read a couple of different ways. I see it as the wreck of the mortal body in the column, mirrored by the twilight in the sky signifying the end of life. But against the dying of the light, so to speak, is the promise of immortality symbolized by the pyramids. And where a column has fallen, life, in the form of a palm tree, springs up.
The window can thus be read in a thoroughly Christian vein (as its 19th century proprietors no doubt wished), but the commissioners had the courage of their convictions to let symbols native to the Egyptian revival architecture they had chosen do the work for them, rather than (as one occasionally sees) add a last-minute, panicky cross or something into the picture, spoiling it.
Some of the glass in the central image is painted, I think, like the fallen column capital, the tree trunks, and the pyramids, but the most striking effects are created with art glass that has been mixed and fired to create very, very attractive streaked effects, or an alabaster look. I particularly like the sky as it transitions through several colors between a yellow gold to a blue with hints of turquoise.
Good work, Klein! Thanks for paying the little extra to leave us something beautiful to find!