Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Rabboni grave--a sculpture of Mary Magdelene,
emerging from the tomb of Jesus on the morning of the resurrection.

One of the things I love about older cemeteries is how they immortalize the deceased. Most graves are noted with a lovely headstone, while others choose to be buried in crypts. Grave markers range from the simple to the elaborate. What I enjoy most are the graves that feature sculpture as their mark of acknowledgment that six feet under is someone who was considered perhaps especially extraordinary by those left behind.

The range of material--in this case, granite on the left, bronze on the right--
and the span of decades is part of the intrigue of funerary sculpture.

Today's entry features just a few examples of funerary sculpture as found in Rock Creek Cemetery. Rock Creek Cemetery is the city's oldest burial lot and is still active today. Hence, the range of sculpture spans the decades and centuries since the cemetery opened in 1719.

This contemporary sculpture marks the final resting place
of Susan Cerveny Colbert, Mother, Wife, Artist, and Scientist.

The next time I go to Rock Creek Cemetery, my goal is to find and photograph the sculpture over the graves of Henry and Clover Adams. The artist was Augustus Saint-Gaudens.


Tomorrow: Team of Rivals

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 11/08


Lolade said...

Interesting funerary art. Definitely worth studying. Have a nice day in DC.

b.c. said...

wow, very nicely photographed, i liked the first one specially, but they're all so interesting

D.C. Confidential said...

Lolade: Greetings to you in Lagos! Funerary art is certainly worth seeing. One day I'll post pictures of symbols that are used on gravemarkers and headstones to denote certain aspects of death and the decedents belief in an afterlife.

B.C. Thanks! Isn't that first one amazing? The next time I go to Rock Creek, I'm going to ask the cemetery sexton about it.

marley said...

I think they used to go a bit overboard with all this funerary stuff, but it makes for interesting and spooky photos :)

Virginia said...

Wonderful captures. We visited the cemetery in Montmartre. It was amazing but I didn't take as many photos as I thought. I was very touching to see the care that the old graves still get from loved ones.

Dusty Lens said...

The arework here is fantastic! Always something to see artful in a cemetery. However, I do feel odd pointing a camera in a cemetery, I do get strange looks.

Speaking of art, did you catch "Rape of Europa" in PBS? What an excellent documentary. If not, I highly recommend this as a must see for both art and history.

D.C. Confidential said...

Marley: Some of these cemeteries can get pretty cluttered with headstones. By contrast, there's a cemetery at in Fairfax, Virginia, that is so devoid of any kind of ornamentation as to be almost sterile and cold. I suppose cemetery design is a fine art, eh?

Virginia: Welcome home, friend! Can't wait to see your pictures of Montmartre. I noticed a similar level of care in the cemeteries when I lived in Vienna. Here, it's a mixed bag. Fortunately, RCC is well cared for because it's part of a church glebe.

DL: That's interesting about your discomfort with photography in cemeteries. If there's a burial going on, I avoid those unless I'm invited. And then, I'll only snap pictures if I'm asked to. I'll check out the documentary you suggested. Sounds very interesting.

Ming the Merciless said...

That is one elaborate funeral head stone. ;-)

D.C. Confidential said...

Ming: Isn't it, though? Apparently the Rabboni sculpture graces the grave of the Ffoulke family. Unfortunately, I can't find any information on the family, but the sculpture is cataloged by the Smithsonian American Art Museum as a public work of art.

Here are a few more pictures.

Maya said...

Gravestones are fascinating. I always wonder about the people, especially the ones with big sculptures.

D.C. Confidential said...

Maya: Aren't they, though? And I'm with you: I often wonder, too. Some of them are tributes to the person buried beneath them, I'm sure, but others are definitely an egotistical attempt at immortality.