Victorians used many flowers in their funeral practices. The body lay in state in the parlor of a home as long as four days, often without the benefit of being embalmed. To cover the odors, Victorians filled the parlor with flowers.
Individual flowers were used, too, in the symbolism of death. For instance, the rose could represent love and beauty or the messianic hope that Christ would return. The lily of the valley could represent the tears of the Virgin Mary or the quality of innocence. The Easter lily symbolized the resurrection.
In the funerary statues above and below, the angels are looking down in reflection and sorrow. Each angel is gently dropping one of her flowers to the ground. This act is a recurring Victorian funerary motif designed to remind the viewer that life is short. Often the figure is a young female mourning figure, though, in both cases here, they are angels, appropriate for the Mt. Calvary Cemetery at Columbus, Ohio.
Many of the Victorian funerary symbols expressed the transitory nature of life–how one could be strong and vital one day and dead the next–such as the broken column, broken chain, incomplete circle, broken wheel, or a broken bud. The sculpture representing a young woman placing flowers on a grave also recreates a tradition begun by the ancient Greeks and Romans that we practice to this day.