Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Mourners

The broken tympanum of a headstone in the Church Grounds lot features an eroded, but lovely relief of a mourning woman beside an obelisk-style monument.  The headstone is dated 1810 and the lady's dress certainly reflects the fashion of the era.  She leans towards the grave of her loved one in a pose of grief while a stylized willow tree (a classic symbol of mourning) frames both her and the monument;  the tree's trunk is to the right of the obelisk and its branches arch gracefully over the obelisk to her.

Willow monuments are quite common, especially on late 18th and early 19th century headstones and there are several headstones which feature tiny carved monuments (usually obelisks, but occasionally a broken column), but there are only a few which feature these diminutive mourners in addition to the willow and monument.

A second example can be found in the Spencer-Townsend lot.  While this one is not broken, it is badly eroded.  The

The mourner's upper body is completely erased, as is the upper part of the monument.  There is no willow here, but a swag of cloth frames the figure from above.  Such draperies often represent veils or shrouds, also symbols of mortality and mourning.

These images are quite similar to popular mourning artwork from the same era.  Paintings, prints, and lockets were produced which typically features one or more female figures in mourning attire contemplating a gravestone.  Willows were often included and many had a church in the background.  Prints were often customized by adding the deceased's name, date of birth, and date of death to the monument which usually figured prominently in the foreground.  The Albany Institute of History and Art has a number of objects of this type in their collections, some of which are attributed to Ezra Ames.

A few examples from the AIHA collection:

Mourning locket ca. 1794
Mourning locket ca. 1800
Mourning locket ca. 1800
Memorial oil painting by Ezra Ames