Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wingless Angels

I had a lovely interaction with one of my Facebook readers last week. She saw the serene, snowy image above after I had posted it on Facebook and recognized it as the statue at her family plot – the statue her great grandfather had sculpted around the 1930s!

Here’s part of her original message:

"Dear Ed, I recently Googled statues located in Holy Cross Cemetery [Yeadon, PA,  on the southwest border of Philadelphia] …. One image completely stunned me. It was a partial view of a large stone angel taken in winter, seen here. I am pretty sure this is my family's angel statue - she is leaning on her arm reading a book - that my great grandfather sculpted for the family plot over 80 years ago. How wonderful to see this image included in your photos. Thank you."

The writer’s description of the “large stone angel “ didn’t quite fit the photograph - the stone angel on the left side of the image is not really that large. I replied to her that the figure to the right is not an angel. 

Her reply was rather interesting:

"She isn't really an angel as she doesn't have wings but we have always called her that. She is really a mourning lady sitting down with her head in her hand reading a book. It was sculpted over 80 years ago. She is over our large family plot that actually holds 8 to 12 spots. Thanks so much for your beautiful work!"

I've heard people refer to wingless figures as angels before. In fact, the Warner Memorial (shown here) at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia is usually described as the angel of death (wingless woman at left) releasing the soul of the deceased to the heavens.

Warner Memorial, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia

Initially I asked the writer if her great grandfather had been a local sculptor, to which she replied:

"My great grandfather came from Italy in the late 1800's and he worked in all types of stone as a mason and sculptor. He worked on statues for St. Rita's and St. Monica Churches in South Philly and monuments for cemeteries. He died in 1939. Unfortunately, we don't know exactly which sculptures they are but I've come across some very old pencil sketches from my great grandfather, that my dad had rolled up in a closet, and they look like planned architectural features you see on churches. We may be able to track down some of those features on those churches and match them to the sketches."

I enjoyed being part of this story, albeit in such a small way. I offered to send her a copy of the photograph, and she was very appreciative, adding, “your beautiful work takes me to so many cemeteries I may never get to.” Its amazing how rewarding cemetery photography can be when others find such meaning in your work.