Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Kneeling Child

 The Anderson monument at Albany Rural Cemetery

When I unexpectedly came across the Anderson plot last spring, the badly weathered little statue atop the monument was already a familiar sight.  I had previously seen the figure atop a monument in Schenectady's Vale Cemetery.  The same figure also appeared as stock artwork in several 19th-century city directory advertisements for local stone cutters, including James Gazeley, William Manson, and Edward Remond (all of whom created monuments for Albany Rural).

 The Anderson lot viewed from one of the old ravine paths.

Variations on the statue also appeared in Facebook groups for cemetery enthusiasts;  there were examples in cemeteries such Brooklyn's vast Green-Wood, and Union Grove in Canal Winchester, Ohio, Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Forest Hill in Boston, Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit, and Mount Auburn (the original "rural" cemetery).  Examples also appear in Ireland and England. Some of these figures were marble, one was white zinc. 

Vale Cemetery, Schenectady

The little figure was originally the work of Florentine sculptor Luigi Pampaloni (1791-1847).  Created around 1826, the figure was originally one of a plaster pair;  a sleeping girl and a kneeling boy beside her.  On a visit to Pampaloni's studio, Countess Anna Potocka commissioned a marble copy of the boy for the grave of her young daughter Julia in Krakow.

 1870 Albany city directory advertisement

The statue, which shows a child kneeling with one knee raised and one foot tucked behind, clasped hands, an upturned face, and long curls, became quite popular and copies some appeared in gardens and cemeteries.  Appealing to popular sentimental taste, plaster, alabaster, and porcelain examples could be found in parlors and drawing rooms.  Some examples include wings.  In some versions, the child kneels on a cushion, other omit the cushion.

Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

The figure is known by several names;  "The Praying Child," "Kneeling Samuel" or "Little Samuel," and "The Orphan."  Some claimed it was meant to represent the son of the late Emperor Napoleon.  It is also called "The Prayer of Pampaloni."

There is even a Flickr group of images of the various versions found around the world.