Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn The Art of Memory: Monuments Through Time - Page 4

the Art of Memory Neoclassical Inspiration The first monuments erected at Mount Auburn took the shape of simple, architectural forms. Obelisks, pedestals, columns, and classical sarcophagi were copied extensively and eclectically from ancient Greece, Italy and Egypt. Mount Auburn founders Jacob Bigelow and General Henry A.S. Dearborn purchased books illustrated with prints of monuments from Père La Chaise Cemetery in Paris, whose classic funerary designs could then be copied by local monument dealers and stone cutters back home. White marble became a favorite alternative to the blue and gray slate traditionally used for markers in Boston’s burying grounds. Hannah Adams, (1755 – 1831), Lot 180 Central Avenue In 1832, the Boston Courier reported, “A white marble [monument] of singular beauty and simplicity was erected last week in this new cemetery.” 3 Women friends of Hannah Adams, author and historian of comparative religion, raised funds for a memorial in her honor. Local stone carvers Alpheus Carey and David Dickinson carved the monument, the first to be erected at Mount Auburn. The neoclassical pedestal form became a model for other memorials in cemeteries throughout the United States. Joseph Story, (1779 – 1845), Lot 313 Narcissus Path Wood engraving, Bricher & Russell, Guide Through Mount Auburn, 1860 In his consecration address for the Cemetery in 1831, Mount Auburn’s first president, Justice Joseph Story, stated that “it is confidently expected that many of the proprietors will… proceed to erect upon their lots such monuments and appropriate structures, as will give to the place a part of the solemnity and beauty which it’s destined ultimately to acquire.” 4 Story’s own neoclassical monument on Narcissus Path took the form of a beautifully proportioned obelisk with a winged sun disk underneath the pedestal’s cove molding. The obelisk, used by the Egyptians to symbolize a ray of sunlight, became a popular funerary symbol in American cemeteries. Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, (1776 – 1832), Lot 181 Central Avenue Photo, Arthur C. Haskell, 1937 2 | Sweet Auburn A marble sarcophagus was erected in honor of the German phrenologist Johann Gaspar Spurzheim in 1832. Spurzheim died only a few months after coming to the United States on a lecture tour, and friends contributed funds for his memorial. The classical altar tomb with a Doric frieze is an exact copy of the stone sarcophagus of Cornelius Scipio Barbatus discovered on the Appian Way in Rome in the 1700s, and now in the Vatican Museum. Prominently placed near the entrance to Mount Auburn, the Spurzheim monument is the first use of this primary funerary form in a Western cemetery, a design now found in cemeteries worldwide. Photo, Jennifer Johnston, 2013