Thursday, March 7, 2013

Granary Burying Ground (Boston, MA) - Part 2

I last posted photos from the Granary Burying Ground over a month ago, intending to talk about the second set much earlier than this. February was a bit of a whirlwind, so here were are in March already. As I said then, I often come away with so many wonderful examples of gravestone art that I can't narrow it down into just a few images. So here are some more that I loved from this particular Boston cemetery.

 It's easier to see with the larger version of this photo, but on this stone there is a heart containing the epitaph, a winged death's head above it with curved wings, and some very intricate scroll work all around. As I mentioned in my post on the Central Burying Ground, those types of images were common, and they're one of my favorite icons. This is a slightly different interpretation here.
 This headstone has a couple of symbols that are interesting to talk about. On top we have a sculpture of an urn with drapery around it. Urns and vases on gravestones have pretty literal meanings, representing the remains of the individual buried there. On the body of the stone there is also a hand pointing upwards sculpted into the facade. This is a at once a very plain and literal image, as well as a spiritual one. The hand points towards the heavens, where the soul of the individual (as opposed to the body, held metaphorically in the urn and literally underground) hopefully is headed. It is not a religious symbol necessarily, it doesn't technically identify any sort of affiliation. But the spiritual sentiment behind the gesture is still apparent.
The urn and willow are a common symbol during this time period, as I discussed in the photo above the urn is a symbol of death while the willow represents loss and mourning. At first glance, I assumed the urn sat upon a book, even though it doesn't quite look like one upon further examination. There is a quote inscribed upon the front, "To this sad shrine, whoe'er thou art, draw near;/Here lies the Friend most lov'd, the Son most dear;/Who ne'er knew Joy but Friendship might divide/Or gave his father grief but when he died." It's the first half of an epitaph written by Alexander Pope, "On the Hon. Simon Harcourt," in 1720.

Sadly, this stone is for four children of the Neal family. They all died far too young. The first, Elizabeth, is either 3 or 8 days old, with another sibling Hannah mentioned with no age. The second, also named Elizabeth, died after 2 weeks. The last, Andrew, was 18 months. In addition to the unusually styled winged death's head at the top of the stone, there are symbols of crossed bones, an hourglass, and a crossed spade and shovel.

This last image, I unfortunately don't have the name for. It's a coat of arms sculpted into one side of a headstone. These have their own symbolism, not something I have any expertise in but it's interesting to consider some of the symbols used here and what they may have meant to the person this belonged to. It's certainly something different, especially to me. You don't see gravestones like this anywhere in the Midwest, so it's unique to certain areas of the U.S. like Boston.

Death's Head, Cherub, Urn and Willow via Plymouth Colony Archive Project
On the Hon. Simon Harcourt via

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