The Art of Cemetery Statuery. (1)

I recently joined a facebook group that has an interest in Cemetery Statuery, and it is one field I have an interest in. There is something majestic about an angel, or sad about a time worn cherub that just appeals to the senses and calls to the photographer. The oldest Cemetery we have in Johannesburg is Braamfontein and it is here that some of the older examples are to be found, but I am finding more modern examples in other cemeteries that are equally as beautiful and which are just crying out to be captured forever on film (or whatever the modern equivalent may be). This is my tribute to some of the Cemetery Angels and statues that  I have seen in Westpark, Brixton and Braamfontein cemeteries.
 
I call her "the Bathing Angel". From Braamfontein.

I call her “the Bathing Angel”. From Braamfontein.

And in her bath...

And in her bath. November 2011

Braamfontein Cemetery in Johannesburg is also the oldest existing municipal in Johannesburg, and technically should contain the largest proportion of the angels and statues of the three cemeteries I am visiting in this post.

 
 
This small porcelain chap was quite a popular angel and I have seen him in a number of cemeteries, mostly on children’s graves and in various states of disrepair. And while he is cracked he was still hanging in there the last time I saw him in 2012.

Many of these memorials have been standing here over 100 years, and are in a surprisingly good condition too. Although it is a precarious existence because there is always the possibility of damage through vandalism, or subsidence.

I have always considered her to be a bit too melodramatic for my taste, but she is quite unique and well made, although she seems to have been cut off just below the knees.

The more matronly angel below is in a  remarkable condition, and I have never seen another like her. Could she be modelled after the person she in memory of?

The strange thing is that right up till the end I was discovering statues that I had missed on previous visits. This one is also dated 2012, and I had never seen her up till that point,  she does seem disappointed though.

This enclosed area has a number of small angels, and this larger full winged version dates from 1907, Surprisingly she has not lost her wings, but that could be because she is relatively safe from destructive hands in the enclosure. Unfortunately she is weathering a lot, and I expect the proximity of the highway may be a contributing factor.

And this full winged seated thinker dates from around 1908. Strangely enough I know exactly where this angels is in the cemetery, but have very few photographs of it.
 

Leave Braamfontein in the capable hands of the angels and cherubs we head west to Brixton cemetery, leaving this beaut to raise its stone eyes to the heavens.

Braamfontein Cemetery (1500×391)

Brixton Cemetery has its fair share of angels as well, but a lot of its real gems are in shaded areas so they do not photograph very well. The one piece of cemetery statuery that really stands out in the cemetery is known as “The Organ Grave”.  The surname on the grave is Murley, but I often wonder if there was any connection to a pipe organ player.

 
Often, the most simple of statues is the most poignant, like this very weathered lamb in a children’s plot. It is quite a common motif, and I have seen it in a number of cemeteries, but I have yet to find one that is in a good condition.
 
 
Brixton has a lot of hidden treasures, and this small baby has slumbered here since the late 1930’s. His parents are probably long gone, and it is unlikely that any of his modern relatives are even aware of his existence.  May he rest in peace.

Cemetery Statuery easily lends itself to black and White photography, and all angels seem to look magnificent in stark colours. sadly though, they are very prone to vandalism, like this handless statue in Brixton.

 
This is “Little Winnie”, and she lives in the shade of lots of large trees, and consequently is very difficult to photograph.
 
Every so often I will find one displaced off her pedestal, this one seems to have taken up her final repose leaning against the headstone. The question arises, did she fall? or was she pushed?
 

And this reasonably simple angel prays that she does not become the subject of vandalism. Given her proximity to the fence I am surprised that she has survived as well as she has.

The loss of the middle part of her wings has proved to be somewhat odd, but otherwise she was intact when I last saw her, although she was not looking too pleased.

Most of the angels that I have examined closeup have various expressions, ranging from mourning right through to disdain. And, of course they are usually genderless, although I do suspect most are female. This particular example is definitely female.

And yet another handless angel. I have often pondered on this loss of limbs, and it is not always attributable to vandalism, but may be a weak part of the statue, without knowing how these were constructed it is difficult to say how it actually happens. But an upstretched arm could easily be blown off by wind or a flying tree branch. I have just seen too many broken arms and hands to be able to attribute it to the moron with a thing for stone hands. I have also never found one of these arms or hands below a statue, so who knows where those go to.

The Christ figure is a popular one too, often being found in the Catholic areas of a cemetery, and this fine example dates from very early the earliest days of the cemetery.
 

It is time to leave this cemetery of contrasts and head north along Beyers Naude Drive towards Westpark, which is the youngest of the three cemeteries.

Brixton Cemetery (1498x528)

Brixton Cemetery (1498×528)

Space and bandwidth does not allow me to show off all the angels from all of these three cemeteries, suffice to say there are many more just waiting to be seen.  I continued in this theme on page 2 where I will explored some of the modern (and not so modern) angels I have spotted in other local cemeteries.
 
 
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