In his book, Saving Graces, published by W. W. Norton & Company in 1995, David Robinson has taken pictures of mourning figures from some of the most beautiful and famous cemeteries in Europe, including Pere Lachaise in Paris and Monumentale in Milan. The photographs in the book show beautiful, young, and voluptuous women often wearing revealing clothing mourning the dead. Robinson writes that all of the mourning figures he found were women, not angels, no wings. Robinson writes that women, in fact, carry out the role of grieving and the artists portray this in sculpted marble and cast bronze.
Robinson identified four categories of “Saving Graces”–first, women completely overcome by grief, often portrayed as having collapsed and fallen limp on the grave. Second are the women who are portrayed reaching up to Heaven as if to try to call their recently lost loved one back to Earth. Third, are the women who are immobile and grief stricken, often holding their head in their hands distraught with loss. Lastly, he describes the last category of “Saving Grace” as the mourning figure who is “resigned with the loss and accepting of death.”
Examples of these mourning figures or “Saving Graces” can be found in American cemeteries, too. Below I have included examples of the four types. The first photo is of the Albertina Allen White monument at the Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis. The surrogate mourning figure is prostrate in grief clutching palm leaves. In the second example at the Laurel Hill Cemetery at Philadelphia, the “Saving Grace” is lifting the shroud that covers her face as her arm reaches toward the Heavens, which are represented by the clouds and stars delicately carved in the stone behind her. The third image is of a kneeling mourning figure in the Oakland Cemetery at Atlanta. She holds her head in grief and also bears a laurel wreath in one hand. The fourth is also from the Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis. Her sadness is expressed by looking down as she holds a bouquet of flowers.