Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Grave images: Drapery

Visit an old graveyard and you will likely see stone drapery: Draped urns, draped crosses, draped pedestals, draped columns. Sometimes drapery is swagged like window curtains to reveal an urn, flowers, or the stone’s inscription—or even nothing at all.

Drapery is understood to represent grief and mourning, but there are two richer interpretations of gravestone drapery: drapery as a shroud and drapery as a partition.

Does how the drapery is used favor one interpretation or the other? Perhaps it does.

Draped urn
The urn, likely a reference to the ancient Grecian funerary urn, represents the soul. Seemingly dropped casually on the urn, the drapery may represent the shroud left behind when the deceased’s soul left the body.


Swagged drapery
Drapery is also thought to be a symbol for the partition between life and death, between this life and the next. In this sense, swagged drapes can been seen as creating the opening through which the soul passes in making the transition to the next life.


Mary Tyler, Milford Center Cemetery, Union County, Ohio
Henry Filler (urn on pedestal), Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery, Perry County, Ohio
Michael Lutz, Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery, Perry County, Ohio
Mary Murphy (urn with dove), Oak Grove Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio
Edward Evans, Oak Grove Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio
Ann Thompson, Fletcher Chapel Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio
Unknown (weathered stone), Galena Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio
Jonathan Noble, Blendon Central Cemetery, Franklin County, Ohio


  1. Those are some very fine examples of drapes, I especially liked the one in relief on the left hand side from the last pair of photos.

  2. Very informative post! Though a draped urn is common, I actually do not see a lot of swagged drapery in my area. So those images were a real treat for me.

  3. Great post. There are several stones with dapery in my area but hands seem to be the most popular here.

  4. I see lots of drapery, but the urn-and-willow motif seems to be the most popular in my neck of the woods. For 19th century gravestones, that is. Though the swagged drapery with urn seems to run a close second!

  5. A fact-packed post - thank you, And great images!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...