Raphael’s Iconic Cherubs

Joseph T. Poheim

Born March 19, 1847 – Died December 1, 1905

Katherine D. Poheim

Born January 1858 – Died September 16, 1924

Hugo G. Poheim

Born December 22, 1880 – Died September 16, 1954

Arthur T. Poheim

Born September 10, 1883 – Died March 19, 1975

The Sistine Madonna is a magnificent painting by the Renaissance artist, Raffaello Sanzio “Raphael.”   Pope Julius II commissioned the painting for the San Sisto Church, at the Benedictine abbey, in Piacenza, Italy.  Raphael painted the work between 1513 and 1514 for the church’s altarpiece.

The scene opens with the deep emerald curtains drawn back to reveal the Madonna standing on swirling clouds is seen in the center of the painting holding the Christ child.  She is flanked by Pope St. Sixtus I (papacy from c. 115 to c. 124) and St. Barbara, martyr from the third century who was beheaded by her father for professing her Christian faith.  Just over St. Barbara’s shoulder is the indication of a tower—one of the symbols that she is associated with.  St. Sixtus, whose pontiff’s miter indicates his official authority, points the viewer’s eye out of the painting toward a crucifix that was hung near the painting on a choir screen.  A closer look at the expressions of the Madonna and the Christ reveals looks of concern and fear, as they both can see the fate that lies ahead for the Christ child.  St. Barbara looks serenely downward toward the chubby male cherubs or “putti” who stare back.

The painting is considered one of the greatest paintings of the Italian Renaissance and the last painting completed entirely by Raphael himself is now in the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, Germany.  The monks at the abbey sold the painting in 1754 for twelve thousand zucchini to the King of Poland, Augustus III, who lived in Dresden.  A copy is now on display in the abbey.

As magnificent as are the four figures in the top two-thirds of the scene, it is the putti that have gained iconic status.  Their image can be seen on all sorts of commercial products.

Legend states that the two angels were modeled after two children Raphael saw wistfully looking up at a baker’s shop window, no doubt pining away for sweet confections.  Now that image can be seen on postcards, greeting cards, wrapping paper, stamps, and even bronze doors—such are the door on the Poheim family mausoleum in the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Colma, California.

The door features poppies–long associated with eternal sleep–and the putti at the base of the door, looking contemplative–this time not looking for confections or looking back at St. Barbara, but toward the Heavens perhaps.

The door is signed by the sculptor, unfortunately, it is unreadable to me.  But the reproduction of Raphael’s cherubs is masterful.

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Exotic Revival Architecture

William Allen Rawson

Born November 2, 1810 – Craftsbury, Orleans County, Vermont

Died September 11, 1879 – Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa

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Julia A. Root Rawson

Born January 21, 1818 – Montague, Franklin County, Massachusetts

Died July 31, 1865 – Columbus Muscogee County, Georgia

.

Florida Fort Rawson

Born April 1840

Died June 30, 1881

The honey-colored Rawson Family mausoleum was built in 1880 in the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.  The initials “W. A.” above the doorway indicate the primogenitor of the family who is buried in the tomb long with several family members.  William A. Rawson was a prominent Atlanta merchant with extensive property holdings.

According to Images of America: Historic Oakland Cemetery by Tevi Taliaferro (Arcadia Publishing, 2001, page 44), the mausoleum is an “example of the Exotic Revival architecture, this structure has elements of Greek Revival, including pilasters, or flat piers, attached to the walls and a pediment.”

If you peer through the elaborate doors into the mausoleum there is a round stained-glass window featuring a dove carrying an olive.  The circle of yellow glass produces and halo effect around the vivid purple glass displaying the dove descending.

Many symbols found on gravestones have multiple meanings. The dove is one of those.  Several references in the Bible refer to the dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 3:16 reads, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” In Mark 1:10 the Bible says, “And Straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him.” Again in John 1:32, the Bible reads, “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.”

Along with the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit, the dove is also closely associated with peace, often depicted with a sprig of an olive in its beak. This, too, originated in the Bible. After the waters receded in the story of Noah, the dove appears. Genesis 8:11, “And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off; so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.”   It was a sign of God’s forgiveness.

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Tools of the Trade

William Pope McArthur

Born April 2, 1814, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

Died December 23, 1850, Panama

The tall white marble gravestone in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. is a cenotaph—empty tomb.  According to the June 15th, 1854, Evening Star, there is a “handsome column in memory of Lieutenant McArthur, erected by his brother officers of the coast survey; the shaft of the column is ornamented with an anchor, and a surveying instrument, typical of his occupation, is carved on the base.”

Lieutenant William Pope McArthur

Lieutenant McArthur was a naval officer who studied various aspects of the coastal waters—including participating in the first surveys of the Pacific Coast for the United States and Geodetic Survey.

An anchor is carved on the shaft of the monument.  The anchor is an ancient Christian symbol that has been found in early catacomb burials.  The anchor was used by early Christians as a disguised cross.  The anchor also served as a symbol of Christ and his anchoring influence in the lives of Christians.  Just as an anchor does not let a moored boat drift, the anchoring influence of Christ does not allow the Christian life to drift.  The symbolism in this case, however, most likely represents the fact that Lieutenant McArthur served in the U.S. Navy.

The large block of marble on which the column rests is called a plinth.  A surveying instrument, one of his tools of the trade, is carved on the plinth—a reminder of the work that Lieutenant McArthur that led his fellow officers to honor his work and life.

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Mother and Daughter

May “Mollie” Cash Neal

Born 1844, Louisiana

Died October 1894, aged 49-50

Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Neal

Born 1867, Louisiana

Died June 17, 1889, aged 21-22

The monument in the historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta of two women sitting next two each other could be of two goddesses or two sisters.   The monument, however, was carved to represent a mother and a daughter.

The sculpture on the left is thought to represent May “Mollie” Neal, wife of Captain Thomas Benton Neal (born October 21, 1838, Pike County, Georgia—Died April 12,1902, aged 63, Fulton County, Georgia).

The sculpture to the right represents Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” the Neal’s daughter, who suffered from rheumatism for several months before her death.  The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana June 23, 1889, Sunday) wrote, “Miss Mary Lizzie Neal of Atlanta, Georgia…was long a sufferer of the fatal disease, paralysis of the heart, which has at last snapped the tender cord and torn her from adoring parents and sister.  She was formerly a Minden girl and a general favorite with her numerous friends here and elsewhere who mourn her untimely end.”

According to Images of America: Historic Oakland Cemetery by Tevi Taliaferro (Arcadia Publishing, 2001, page 99), the Neal monument was “Designed in the neo-classical style, the Neal Mother and Daughter monument features both women dressed in flowing Greek or Roman robes.  The wreath symbolizes eternity and the palm branch indicates spiritual victory over death.  The open book represents knowledge learned on Earth, while the closed book symbolizes what can only be learned in Heaven.  The figures are seated in front of a Celtic cross.

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The Shepherd’s Crook

In Memory of

My beloved husband

EDWARD G. HANDY

Born Nov. 11th, 1821

Died June 28th, 1871

A kind and thoughtful

Husband

….

…..Beloved sleep

ISOBEL Y. P. HANDY

1823 – 1902

The rounded-top white marble gravestone of Edward and Isabel Handy in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., has the all-seeing eye below billowing clouds carved into the top of the marker. At first glance, it could be the gravestone of a Mason.  A second look, however, reveals the most recognizable symbol of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows—three links.  That distinguishes it from Masonic imagery, though, the two fraternal organizations share many of the same symbols.

According to the Half-Moon Bay Odd Fellows Ocean View Lodge 143 website, the all-seeing eye “represents the universal spiritual presence that is embodied in all of us as we do good work for our community, for our environment, and for all mankind.”

On either side of the shield bearing the gravestone’s inscription are shepherd’s crooks.  In 2016, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, exhibited a number of artifacts related to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows titled, Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection. The exhibit was curated by Stacy C. Hollander and displayed two golden shepherd’s crooks.  According to the exhibition label, “The crook, as the “staff of the shepherd,” is associated with the Odd Fellows Encampment Degrees. These degrees have rituals that tell stories of a shepherd’s life. The curved head is used to reach after and draw a member back to safety as part of the ritual. The members recognize the crook as a symbol of watchful care, which they are expected to exhibit toward other members, family, friends, and their community.”

The Congressional Cemetery website has a search engine for the directory of people buried at the cemetery.  Edward Graham Handy is listed in the index along with the following bit of information: “On the 28th instant, Edward G. Handy, aged 50 years. Relatives and friends are invited to attend his funeral from his late residence, 300 A street southeast on Friday at 4 o’clock p.m.

Engraved on the stone is the name Isobel P V. Handy.  However, the Congressional Cemetery Index lists her name as Isabel Yelverton Peyton Handy and the following information about her, “On Sunday, February 9, 1902, at 2:36 p.m., Isabel Yelverton Peyton Handy, widow of Edward Graham Handy, daughter of Joseph Walker and Elizabeth Ogilvie Laurie Beck and mother of Dr. Wm. E. Handy and Mrs. Jos. B. Austin. Funeral from her late residence at Hyattsville, Md., Tuesday, February 11, at 12 am. Interment private. [Evening Star, Monday, February 10, 1902, Page 5].”

The middle of the gravestone is very badly eroded and some of the inscription is not discernible.  However, the Congressional Cemetery Index lists another burial associated with this gravestone: Edward L. Handy, who died July 1, 1913.  The index gives no other clue to the who this is or details regarding his burial.

 

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The Post Grand Sire

The cartouche on the face of the plinth is badly worn and eroded but is discernible:

Frederick D. Stuart

Post Grand Sire

I.O.O.F.

Born in Poughkeepsie N. Y.

July 11, 1811

Died in Washington, D.C.

January 25, 1878

Frederick D. Stuart was married to Catherine Van Voorhis Stuart, who was born February 12, 1812.  Together they had eight children: Mary Doughty, Frederick Donald, Charles Adolphus, James Douglas, Thomas R., Catherine Isabel, Rosalie Christina, and William Gordon.  Catherine Stuart died January 13, 1878 and was laid to rest on a cold and blustery day.  Frederick caught cold at his wife’s funeral and died less than two weeks later—January 25, 1878.

The soaring soft, white-marble obelisk in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., is a tribute to Frederick Stuart, who was the Post Grand Sire of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is a fraternal organization that formed in England in the 1700s as a service organization. The American association was founded in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819. According to the I.O.O.F. Website, “Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England instituted Washington Lodge No. 1. This lodge received its charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England.”

On the cartouche on the opposite side from his name, is the dedication from his compatriot Odd Fellow members who erected the gravestone in his honor:

ERECTED

By the Independent Order of

ODD FELLOWS

In memory of

He Who Loved His Fellow Man

The gravestone is imbued with much Odd Fellow’s symbolism.  Midway on the obelisk is the tent with two crossed crooks.

Tent and Crossed Crooks

According to the Half Moon Bay Odd Fellows Ocean View Lodge website, the tent and crossed crooks represent, “A higher order of the IOOF called the Encampment uses the symbols of crossed shepherd’s hooks and/or ancient Middle Eastern-looking tents. The Encampment branch of the IOOF strives to impart the principles of Faith, Hope and Charity. The crossed shepherd’s hooks symbolize that the higher order of the IOOF are like the Israelites – shepherds, watching their flocks and keeping them safe. And the tents are the tents of the wandering Israelites, to remind us we “do not permanently abide here, as we are on a pilgrimage to the grave.”

Hatchet and Three Links

The main symbol of the IOOF is the three chain links, sometimes with the letters F, L and T inside them, which stand for Friendship, Love, and Truth.  When the three chain links are joined with an axe, the symbol means that truth must be persevered and the parts of us that “do not bear good fruit” must be cut down, as an axe fells sickly trees.

The Sword and Scales

Here is the symbol of the sword and the scales—the sword is the vertical rod holding the scales.  According to Stacy C. Hollander, “Independent Order of Odd Fellows Sword with Scales,” exhibition label for Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection. Stacy C. Hollander, curator. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2016, the symbol of the sword and scales, like many of the symbols adopted in America’s early national period, derives from classical sources and came to be closely identified with the judicial system. It is used in the rituals of the Odd Fellows to signify justice.

In addition to the plethora of Odd Fellows symbols described above there are also two tableaus that are badly eroded and difficult to decipher:

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The Helmet

ALEXANDER MACOMB

MAJOR GENERAL COMMANDING-IN-CHIEF

UNITED STATES ARMY

DIED AT WASHINGTON

THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT

25 JUNE 1841

IT WERE BUT A SMALL TRIBUTE TO HIS MEMORY TO SAY THAT IN YOUTH AND MANHOOD, HE SERVED HIS COUNTRY IN THE PROFESSION IN WHICH HE DIED, DURING A PERIOD OF MORE THAN FORTY YEARS, WITHOUT A STAIN OR BLEMISH ON HIS ESCUTCHEON.

BY GENERAL ORDERS OF WAR DEPARTMENT

THE HONORS CONFERRED UPON HIM BY PRESIDENT MADISON, RECEIVED ON THE FIELD OF VICTORY FOR DISTINGUISHED AND GALLANT CONDUCT IN DEFEATING THE ENEMY AT PLATTSBURG AND THE THANKS OF CONGRESS BESTOWED WITH A MEDAL COMMEMORATIVE OF THIS TRIUMPH OF THE ARMS OF THE REPUBLIC ATTEST THE HIGH ESTIMATE OF HIS GALLANTRY AND MERITORIOUS SERVICES.

GENERAL ORDERS OF WAR DEPARTMENT

The elaborate and soaring white marble grave marker of Major General Alexander Macomb is adorned with several symbols—a winged hours glass, a butterfly, and topped with an ancient-styled helmet—Roman, Corinthian, or Macedonian.  In this case, as most, the helmet denotes military service.  Here, it honors the proud and gallant military service of Major General Macomb’s leading several successful missions against the British during the War of 1812.

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