Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Angel of Grief

I made my trip to the Protestant cemetery in Rome specifically to see this headstone:

It is called The Angel of Grief.  It was carved by William Wetmore Story in memory of his wife, Emelyn.  It was the last statue he made before his own death in 1895.  They are buried together underneath.

Nevertheless, something about this angel speaks to me.  In person, it is even more stunning than in any photograph and certainly more so that my photos can convey.  The details are especially amazing.  The drape of the cloth, the feathers on the wings, the very toenails of the foot.

Amusingly, as I was taking pictures, two couples walked by and one of the men reached out to run his hand across the rear end of the angel.  I'm guessing he must have been one of those hot-blooded Italians you hear about, he just couldn't help himself!  Dude, really? It's just cement, you know!  Except that's how good a carving it is, it seems as if it must be real.  You can feel the emotion, the depth of the grief.  Surely it can't just be a piece of stone.  Perhaps he meant to give more of a comforting caress, rather than a quick fondle!

Nor does it seem at all suited to a bright, sunny day with blue skies and birds singing.  It should be grey and dark, rainy and cold, to match the depth of the sorrow the carving conveys.  And yet, that wasn't how it was when I first saw her.

As an interesting side note, according to Wikipedia, there are many copies and replicas of this statue located throughout the United States, you can find the list here.

I first saw this headstone in a book of black and white pictures called "Last Kiss", taken by a Canadian photographer by the name of Pamela Williams, featuring her photos of cemetery sculpture. At least, that's where I thought I first saw it. Strangely enough, when I flip through the book tonight, the same book that I'm sure I looked at before my trip, I can't find any images of this sculpture at all. And I see others that were taken at the Protestant Cemetery that I didn't see when I walked around. Hmm. Guess that means I'll have to go back some day for another look.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a wonderful account and lovely photos.