Italian Model or Angel, updated

Luyties Monument, Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri

Luyties Monument, Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri

There is a story about “the girl in the shadow box”. It is an ancient story told and re-told of unrequited love that is also told about this statue. According to local St. Louis lore, the Herman Luyties’ (1871-1921) Monument in the famed Bellefontaine Cemetery displays the bodacious beauty sculpted marble likeness of an Italian model. As the story goes, Herman met her around the turn of the 20th Century while he was touring Italy.

Luyties was a highly successful St. Louis businessman who toured Europe.  While there, he fell in love with the voluptuous Italian and asked for her hand in marriage.  She declined.  He left the country broken hearted and without the love of his life.

But, before Luyties left Italy he commissioned a sculptor to replicate his true love in stone.  The statue that now adorns his grave, first graced the entryway of his home–a constant reminder of unrequited love.  The sculpture, weighing several tons, was moved from his home to the cemetery.  When the sculpture started to weather, Luyties had the monument front glassed in which is how the monument gained the moniker, “the girl in the shadow box.”

Hilts Family Monument, Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri

Hilts Family Monument, Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri


The image of the woman at the center of this story can also be found only a short distance from Luyties monument in the very same cemetery. The Christopher Edward Hilts (November 16, 1842 – November 16, 1928, he died on his birthday) and Elizabeth Mary Hilts (December 12, 1840 – November 30, 1899) family monument features a bronze statue of an angel with all of the same physical characteristics of Luyties’ supposed lover.

Virtually the same image can be found in the Green-Wood Cemetery at Brooklyn, New York, in the form of an angel–the hair, that body, even the drapery falls in the same way.  The statue that is strikingly similar marks the graves of John Campbell Maben (1837-1924) and Virginia Maben (died 1912) which raises the question about the Luyties story from St. Louis—was she real? Or is this figure the 1920s archetype graveyard female? Head tilted downward in sorrow, bobbed hair with a headband, and a pose of false modesty partially covering up her full body.

Maben Family Monument, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York

Maben Family Monument, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York

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5 Responses to Italian Model or Angel, updated

  1. Mike Bieling says:

    This story can’t be entirely correct, because the Luyties statue is definitely a copy of a work called “The Angel of the Resurrection” by Giulio Monteverde, on the Oneto family tomb in Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa, Italy. It was installed there in 1882, so if Luyties did meet the model for it while in Italy at the turn of the century, she must have been forty if she was a day. He wouldn’t be the only one to have fallen in love with the sculpture, though, and to have had a copy made. The Monteverde Angel is considered a neoclassical masterpiece, so you do see copies and variations of it everywhere (check out Google Images and you’ll see the difference between it and the imitators). Something similar happened with W.W. Story’s 1895 “Angel of Grief”, also an entirely new kind of angel, which you see all over, too.

    • Bob Giles says:

      Nice to see someone else coming to the same conclusions. The story sounds made up, maybe to make his wife jealous…who knows?
      I always question these tales against any evidence I can. People make up stories every day based on nothing. How humans love drama.
      Besides, the Luyties “angel” has no wings and in my book; NOT an angel, but a cheaper knock off of the Staglieno Oneto angel….which has been copied all over the world and with wings.

  2. gsb03632 says:

    I’m trying to think through this statue type, too. May I have permission to use your images of the Luyties, Hilts, and Maben figures?

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