Mourning Figure



Mary to her Savior’s tomb

Hasted at the early dawn

Spice she brought and rich perfume.


The Design Hints for Memorial Craftsmen was an industry publication for stone cutters and monuments salespeople and professionals.  The magazine published articles about how to carve lettering, where the best materials come from, the meaning of certain symbols, how to build mausoleums, and the history behind various monument types, among other things.  In the article, “Memorial Types – The Sculptured Type,” by Captain John K. Shawvan, from April 1931, pp. 8-9, the writer gave a synopsis of where the first sculptural monuments were created, “Fascinating in its quickly apparent and material proof of the greatest skill of the hands of man, the sculptured memorial will always symbolize the power of man to express his deepest emotions without recourse to the spoken or written word.  Originating in Egypt, developed to its highest degree of perfection by the Greeks and handed down through the Romans, the art of Sculpture is one of our greatest inheritances of civilization.”

In the example portrayed in the two page article and the example from the Calvary Cemetery in Decatur, Illinois, a mourning figure dressed in classical clothing is depicted with her head leaning against one hand while the other hand reaches toward one of three symbols on the gravestone—a palm frond.  The other two symbols on the stone are a lyre and a sprig of roses.

The palm frond is an ancient symbol of victory, dating back to Roman times when victors were presented with palm fronds. The palm fronds were also laid in the path of Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. So, for many Christians, the palm represents righteousness, resurrection, and martyrdom, symbolizing the spiritual victory over death associated with the Easter story.

The lyre is traditionally seen as a symbol of Apollo, the Greek god of music. In Christian symbolism it can represent harmony and Heavenly accord and song in praise of the Lord.  In funerary art, however, the lyre can also represent the end of life.

Lastly, romantics have waxed poetic about the rose and the connection to love for centuries which has made the rose an undeniable symbol of love.  The sprig of roses are fully-blossomed and could be a symbol of this married couple’s love for each other.  The rose also has a religious meaning, differing by color.  The white rose symbolizes purity while the red rose represents martyrdom and the messianic hope that Christ will return.


The magazine pages from the article, “Memorial Types – The Sculptured Type,” by Captain John K. Shawvan, from “Design Hints for Memorial Craftsmen,” April 1931, pp. 8-9,
were provided by Peggy Perazzo who shares her vast collection of gravestone catalogs and resources at:

*  “Stone Quarries and Beyond Facebook page:

*  Stone Quarries and Beyond Continues” (new web site – continuation of “Stone Quarries and Beyond”)

The Quarries and Beyond Website and Facebook page were created by Peggy B. and Patrick Perazzo. The collection focuses on historic stone quarries, stone workers and companies, and related subjects such as geology. Whenever possible links of finished products are provided on the Website. There is a “Quarry Articles” section on the Website that presents articles, booklets, and links from the late 1800s to early 1900s, including the 1856 “The Marble-Workers’ Manual.” The “Cemetery Stones and Monuments” section provides references and resources, including many old monument magazines, catalogs, price lists, and a photographic tour “From Quarry to Cemetery Monuments.”

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