The Grim Reaper

A large massive monolith was built to commemorate the pioneers who were buried in The Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco.  The Memorial to Commemorate the California Pioneers, is dedicated to those 35,000 pioneer graves that were removed from San Francisco to the Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California.  Their removal began February 26, 1940.  A large bronze placard states, “As you stand here, open your heart to the pioneers.  They gave you great cities, a fair free land of mountains, a broad sea and the bluest of skies.  Open your heart to them, and trust the best that was in them all, and they will also give you wisdom and humor and above all, courage.  For they are your fathers.”

On the opposite side of the monolith, is a three-quarter sculpture of the grim reaper characterized by a long beard and a scythe.  The scythe is his tool for cutting down and harvesting souls.  In this sculpture the Grim Reaper is depicted as a thin bearded old man with wings.  A winged hour glass rests on his knee.

There are several expressions in the American lexicon that refer to the hourglass and express how fleeting our time on this Earth is, how this temporal life is short. The grand old soap opera, Days of Our Lives, has as their catchphrase, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”  Life measured by the grains of sand slip through one side of the hourglass to the other in a flash.

The hourglass symbol on a gravestone, often shown with wings, as it here, represents the same thought of time fleeting by quickly reminding us of the expression “Time Flies”.  This symbol, a winged hourglass, brings that expression to life, so to speak.  A reminder in stone that life is short and that time is fleeting, every minute of every day brings one closer and closer to death.

Some believe that the origin of the reaper is from the Greek myth of Charon, the ferryman.  Since ancient times, the imagery of the soul crossing a river was created to explain how the soul went from one realm to the other.  This vivid imagery has long been a part of the symbolism of death in iconography and word.

In Greek mythology, the River Styx wrapped its way around Hades (the Underworld) nine times.  To cross from this life to the next, the dead had to pay with a coin to be ferried from the realm of the living to the realm of the dead.  The toll was placed in the mouth of the deceased to pay Charon, the ferryman.  It was said that if the dead person did not have the coin, he was destined to wander the shores of the River Styx for a century.

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Daughters

In Memory of

IDA

Daugh. Of

Geo. D. & A. C. ROLAND

DIED

Feb. 2. 1867

AGED

24 Yrs. 9 Mo’s.

4 D’s.

Daughter it is hard to give you up

But God has called and you must go

To dwell with jesus [sic] in those heavenly mansions

While we are left to weep here below

In the Sandhill Cemetery in the Clay Township of Bartholomew County, Indiana, is a tiny cemetery rightly named because it is sitting atop of a sand hill.  Inside the gates of the cemetery are two tablets for the two daughters of George and A. C. Roland.  Both soft, white-marble gravestones are eroded by years of weather and have lost a great deal of their detail.  Both gravestones have the same image carved into the top third of the marker—a young woman looking over an open book laying on a broad table with a man standing by the desk with one hand on the top of the book.  The man, wearing a long coat, appears to be a teacher, though it could be George Roland, the father of the young women.  The epitaphs on both gravestones are very similar but slightly different.

In Memory of

MALLIE

Daughter of

Geo. D. & A. C. ROLAND

DIED

Oct. 28, 1869

AGED

24 Yr’s. 7 Mo’s.

10 Ds.

Daughter our last can we give you up

Yes God has called and you must go

To dwell with jesus [sic] in those heavenly mansions

By and by we too will ceace [sic] weeping and go

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The Angel in the Boat

[?] MAY 7TH 1880 —  OBIT DECEMBER 1St 1906

A PERFECT AND UPRIGHT MAN

TO THE GLORY OF GOD

IN LOVING MEMORY OF

BERT HOOF

LATE VALUED AND ESTEEMED OFFICER OF DALGETY & COY

VICE CAPTAIN MERCANTILE R CLUB

ACCIDENTLY [sic] DROWNED IN RIVER YARRA

THIS STONE IS ERECTED

AS TOKEN OF UNDYING AFFECTION

BY HIS AUNT FLORENCE PICKERING

ALSO IN LOVING MEMORY OF

ANN RELICT OF JAMES HOOF OBIT 1891

DARLING GRANDMA

According to the Melbourne General Cemetery website, the sprawling graveyard covers 43 hectares (106 acres), and is one of the most historic and important cemeteries in Australia.  Melbourne General Cemetery was established in 1852 and opened in 1853, the first modern cemetery in Victoria, “designed like a large public park with wide wavy paths, separate religious areas, gate lodges, rotundas, chapels, evergreen trees and shrubs.”

Not far from the main gate on College Crescent, to the right on First Avenue, is a gravestone dedicated to Bert Hoof.  The epitaph does not tell the circumstances of his accidental drowning on the Yarra River, but on this gravestone Bert Hoof is depicted as an angel holding up the mast of the tiny boat.

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Guy Boyd, the Mark and Marker of an Artist

IN GOD’S CARE

GUY MARTIN A’BECKETT

BOYD

12. 6. 1923 — 26. 4. 1988

LOVED HUSBAND OF PHYLLIS

DEVOTED FATHER OF SEVEN CHILDREN

DEDICATED FAMILY MAN

SCULPTOR – POTTER – CONSERVATIONIST

 

IN GOD’S CARE

PHYLLIS EMMA BOYD

6. 3. 1926 — 12. 10. 2001

LOVED WIFE OF GUY

DEVOTED MOTHER

GRANDMOTHER, GREAT GRANDMOTHER

ADVOCATE FOR THE HOUSEWIFE–MOTHER

The Brighton General Cemetery in Brighton, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, was designed as a garden cemetery.  Twenty-nine acres of land was set aside in 1853 for the purposes of being a burial ground.  It was designed with broad avenues and bricked alleys that snake through the manicured lawns.  Along the avenues between the curbing and where the grave ledgers shelter the dead is a strip of grass referred to as a lawn.  In the North end of the cemetery along the avenue in that grassy area is a small polished gray granite marker that lies flat with the ground.  The marker has two small plaques and one bronze bas-relief sculpture.

The bas-relief is a sculpture of the pieta featuring the Virgin Mary holding the limp dead body of her son, Jesus Christ. In this sculpture Mary is lifting His body down from the Cross. Many of the pieta sculptures show Jesus lying on Mary’s lap, but this dramatic version depicts the moment Jesus was brought down, His suffering and sacrifice over.  The sculpture is highly-textured.  If it were a painting, one would say that the paint was laid on thick as to make the brush strokes visible in a technique known as impasto.

Works of art, usually sculptures, depicting this subject first began to appear in Germany in the 1300s and are referred to as “vesperbild” in German.  Images of Mary and the dead body of Jesus began to appear in Italy in the 1400s.  The most famous of these sculptures is Michelangelo’s pieta which he sculpted for St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, carved when he was only 24 years old.  Pieta is Italian for “pity.”

The polished granite “grass marker” marks the graves of Guy and Phyllis Boyd.   Guy Boyd was a noted sculptor and potter born into the famous Boyd family of artists and artisans.  His father, William Merric Boyd, was a well-known potter.  His mother, Doris Lucy Eleanor Bloomfield, was a painter.  The artistic dynasty of the Boyd’s began with his grandparents who were also painters along with a host of other relatives who were novelists, architects, sculptors, potters, and painters.  Boyd enrolled and studied sculpture at the East Sydney Technical College in 1945.  The following year he founded a commercial pottery company with commercial success.  During the next twenty years he ran a successful pottery business but was trying his hand at sculpture during that time, as well.  In 1964, after selling his pottery company, Boyd focused full time on his sculptural work becoming noted for his figurative art and his ability to “capture the fluidity and sensuality of the female form.”

After a stint of studying abroad in Europe and Asia, Boyd moved his family to Canada where he gained international fame selling his artwork in galleries of Toronto, Chicago, and New York. However, even with his much touted success overseas, Boyd decided to move his family back to Australia, actually returning to purchase and restore his grandfather’s house on Edward Street, in the beach community of Sandringham, a suburb of Melbourne.  Boyd’s work had been exhibited to much acclaim in Australian cities, such as, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, and major overseas cities of London, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, and New York. His work is represented throughout Australia including in the National Gallery of Australia and in the State galleries of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

And a sculpture, titled the “Sandringham Swimmer” stands in the Indigenous Resource Garden, a small park not far from his last home in Sandringham and is a testament to his talent for capturing the sensual form of the female body.

The Boyd family artistic dynasty continues to this day.  The bas-relief panel below the statue of the swimmer was designed by Guy Boyd but carried out by his daughter, Lenore, who is also an accomplished artist.

The Plaque on the base for the statue:

Australia

1788-1988

Commemoration of the

History and Heritage of Sandringham

Sandringham Swimmer – A sculpture by the late Guy Boyd who lived in Sandringham

for many years.

Sculpture Panel – A sculpture relief depicting important elements of the municipality. Concept

Developed by the late Guy Boyd and sculpted by his daughter Lenore Boyd.

Native Gardens – Many of the Australian native plants in the surrounding gardens were used by the

original aboriginal inhabitants for food and medicinal purposes.

An Australian Bicentennial project carried out with

financial assistance from Federal and State Governments

together with the City of Sandringham.

Unveiled by the Mayor of Sandringham, Cr. Michael Hanlin,

on Sunday 30th October, 1988.

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The Flight of the Soul with an Angel

ERNESTINE

WIFE OF HENRY O’HARA

DIED 14TH OCTR. 1883;

AGED 26 YEARS

LAWRENCE

O’HARA

BORN 7TH OCTR.;

DIED 8TH OCTR. 1883.

 

ISABELLA

WIFE OF

HENRY O’HARA

DIED JUNE 26TH 1887

AGED 31 YEARS.

“I AM THE RESURRECTION-

AND THE LIFE”

On top of a towering dark and white marble gravestone in the Brighton General Cemetery, in Brighton, Australia, a suburb of Melbourne, is a winged angel with her arm raised and her finger pointing toward the Heavens.

Without a closer look, one might miss that the angel holds a chubby little babe cuddled up in her other arm.  The angel here is depicted carrying the baby boy which represents the flight of infant boy’s soul to Heaven.

On the side of the gravestone the inscription tells the passerby that one-day old Lawrence O’Hara died on October 8th, 1883.  Six days later, his mother, Ernestine O’Hara, died at the young age of 26 years old.    The sad and poignant story—one that was all too common in the 1800s—speaks to the danger of becoming a mother.  Women risked their lives in childbirth and some, as evidenced by this gravestone, didn’t live through the danger.

Four years later, Henry O’Hara lost his second wife, Isabella.  Isabella was only 31 years old, but the gravestone does not give any clues as to what might have been the cause of her death.

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The Boy with No Name

In the far and forgotten corner of the Cheltenham Memorial Park (Cemetery), Cheltenham, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, there is a highly polished gray granite ledger with no inscription.  The gravestone has no markings and no name.  Atop the tomb is a bronze statue of a young boy holding a fish as big as he is, standing roughly 4 to 4 and a half feet tall.  The meaning of the sculpture is as much a mystery as who might be buried underneath.

But the artist who created the bronze is not a mystery.  A small signature carved into the base in the back of the sculpture reveals that it was created in 50s by the famed sculptor, Andor Mészáros.  Mészáros gained notoriety by creating the art and design for medals, some were somewhat controversial, but his Stations of the Cross series commissioned for the Canterbury Cathedral was wildly acclaimed.

Mészáros was born September 1, in 1900, in Budapest, Hungary.  When he was slightly less than 20 years old, Mészáros moved to Vienna, then to Paris to study art.  He studied with art greats Matisse and Modigliani.  By the time he returned to Hungary, Mészáros was an accomplished artist in his own right.  He was influenced upon his return by medalist Ede Telcs. In 1939, in anticipation of the impending war, Mészáros, his wife Elizabeth, and their son, moved to Australia. Though commissions were at first hard to come by, he eventually began taking on work and gained fame.

His works can be found throughout Australia and include three carved stone figures for Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, in Sydney, the sculpture titled ‘Maternity’ (1944), ‘The Surgeon’ (1945) and ‘King George V’ (1946).   Among his larger commissioned works were ‘The Resurrection’, a sandstone carving forming the reredos in the chapel of Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) (1954), the hanging rood in the transept of the Cathedral Church of St Peter, Adelaide (1955), and ‘Christ Accepts His Cross’, a bronze figure in All Saints Church, Brisbane (1962). Mészáros’s bas-reliefs in stone and bronze adorn many buildings, among them the Shrine of Remembrance, in Brisbane, the Supreme Court, in Darwin, and Sydney’s international air-terminal with his memorial to Charles Ulm.   His work can be found in many places round the world including Budapest, Stockholm, Baghdad and Breslau, as well as, art galleries in South Australia, Western Australia, and Victoria.

However, Mészáros gained his greatest fame for the designs he created for over 1000 different medals, including one of his most famous—the medal he created for the 1956 Olympic Games.  He also won a design contest for the Australian Dollar coin by the Australian Coin Review Magazine.  His winning design portrayed a flying swan which mistakenly became known as the Goose Dollar and immediately became a collector piece.  Mészáros died in May 1, 1972.

The mystery of the artist was solved but not the mystery behind the meaning of the boy with no name.

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The Day’s Eye

PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF

OUR DEAR MOTHER

CONCETTA PAINO

NATIVE OF LIPARI, ITALY

DIED 1ST JAN. 1928,

AGED 60 YEARS

A COLONIST OF 40 YEARS

MY DEAR HUSBAND

ANGELO PAINO

NATIVE OF LIPARI, ITALY

DIED 13TH NOV. 1936

AGED 62 YEARS

A COLONIST OF 40 YEARS

This magnificent angel in the Cheltenham Memorial Park in Cheltenham, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, is depicted with her head bowed downward—a sign of grief and despair.  The angel looks almost as if she collapsed on the top of the tomb, her legs folded underneath her limp body.  One single stain on the face of the white marble sculpture looks like a tear stain which gives her a heightened sense of loss. She loosely clutches a spray of daisies the grip of her fingers beginning to give way.

The word “daisy” is derived from an Old English word meaning “Day’s Eye.”  The religious symbolism of the daisy represents the innocence of the child and the purity of thought.  The secular meanings include harmony because the flower is like a composite of two flowers in one.  This could be related to the tomb’s inhabitants, Mr. and Mrs. Paino, and a represent a carved demonstration of their love for each other.  The daisy can also represent new beginnings.  Those who are Christians see death not as an ending but the transition from the Earthly Realm to the Heavenly one.  The last and ultimate new beginning.

The sculpture is protected by a canopy with a stained glass ceiling.  The stained glass features the dove and the cross—both motifs commonly found in Christian cemeteries.  The cross is the universal symbol of Christianity while the dove represents the Holy Spirit descending upon the Earth.

The main element of the tomb, of course, is the angel at the center.  When we see a winged figure in a cemetery, we instantly recognize it as an angel–a messenger of God.  However, Christian art did not depict angels with wings until the fourth century.  Before then, angels were represented in several different forms–sometimes in human form, but also represented as a dove, or even just as a hand reaching down to Earth from the Heavens. Beginning with the reign of Constantine in the 4th Century, angels began being depicted with wings, as we portray them today.  The wings of this angel curl underneath her right arm and over her left leg.  She is dressed in classical robes but the band around her hair has a 1920s style to it.

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