Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stone hand holding stone bouquet

A hand holding flowers is not uncommon on 19th century gravestones. You often see it carved in bas relief at the top of the front face of the stone.

The hand-with-flowers on the marker at the grave of Mary Swoyer (d. 1865) stands out: a life-sized—and eerily lifelike—sculpture resting on the top of the gravestone.

wife of
Mar. 29, 1865
37 Y. [illegible]

Click to enlarge

Look closely at the bouquet. I see a rose and a small bunch of grapes, both popular gravestone ornaments. The rose most likely represents beauty and love; the grapes, the blood of Christ. I say most likely because we cannot really know the intentions, can we? Perhaps Mary loved yellow roses and was envied by her friends for her yummy grape jam.

An interesting detail is the medallion-like frame around the inscription. See how it bulges out? There may be a technical name for this effect; I am calling this a “pillowed medallion.”

Lithopolis Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

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