Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Last Launitz

 This finely carved marble monument on the South Ridge (in a plot directly behind the Angel of The Sepulchre) was said to be one of the priciest pieces in a cemetery filled with expensive tombstones.

It was the work of Robert E. Launitz, a Russian-born sculptor well known for his funerary art.  Launitz, who was born in 1806 in what is now Latvia, emigrated to the United States and opened a New York studio (in partnership with John Frazee) in 1831.  Launitz created a number of notable monuments for Brooklyn's famed Green-Wood Cemetery, including the beautiful memorial for Do-hum-me, the daughter of a Native American chief from Kansas (she died in New York shortly after her wedding) and also worked on that cemetery's elaborate Charlotte Canda monument.  He also designed several public memorials, including those honoring James Fenimore Cooper and Casimir Pulaski.

Launitz created several monuments for the Albany Rural Cemetery, including the large sarcophagus of Archibald MacIntyre and the ivy-trimmed monument of MacIntyre's son-in-law, David Henderson.

This monument, erected in 1870, is believed to be one of Launitz's final commissions as he died later that same year.  Richly detailed, it features ornate cornices, heavy floral swags, delicate vines, inverted torches, and - in the front niche - the figure of Hope.  One of her hands rests on an anchor (a popular symbol of faith and steadfastness), the other points to Heaven.

The monument marks the grave of James Wilson.  A self-taught cartographer born in 1796 in New Hampshire, Wilson was inspired by a collection of European globes to open the first factory in the United States to manufacture geographic globes in 1813.  His early 13-inch wooden globes sold for $50 and, with his son, he would later open a second factory in Albany

Examples of his globes (and an advertisement for his company) can be found here:

American Treasures of The Library of Congress

Wilson died in 1869 and his widow commissioned this monument from Launitz.

The headstone of his daughter-in-law Abigail can be found in the Church Grounds

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