Mourning

Many Victorian cemetery monuments are imbued with a multitude of symbolism.  In David Robinson’s book, Saving Graces, mourning figures from some of the most beautiful and famous cemeteries in Europe show sculpted beautiful, young, and voluptuous women often wearing revealing clothing mourning the dead.

Robinson identified four categories of what he called ”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 Graces” as the mourning figure who is “resigned with the loss and accepting of death.”

In this example from the Vysehrad Cemetery in Prague, the Tragrova family monument depicts two views of a mourning figure in the bas-relief bronze sculpture on the face of the monument.  In the background the mourning figure is depicted with her hands holding her head, stricken with grief and is the third type of mourning figure Robinson mentions.  The figure in the foreground is shown kneeling with her head bowed and appears to be resigned to accept the loss.  She holds a rose, possibly as an offering for the grave.  The act of placing the flower is also a recurring funerary motif which is designed to remind the viewer that life is short. The Victorian funerary symbolism associated with flowers used the rose to represent the love.  It also symbolized the messianic hope that Christ would return.

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