Friday, 15 April 2005

Statuary Friday #4

Ok, here's my project: or perhaps it's a meme: though I doubt anything qualifies as a meme if only one person is onto it. Well, anyway, every Friday I do a different piece of sculpture selected from the vast numbers littered around lovely Melbourne. My only criteria are: it must be outdoors, it must be more or less permanent, and it must be in a publically accessible location. (Suggestions, especially for sculpture in the 'burbs, are very welcome.)

This week is image-heavy, I apologise for this, but I'm only posting about a third of the pix I took, and I've made them all as low-res as possible so hopefully the page won't take too long to load. Anyhow:

#4 the Springthorpe Memorial

Boroondara Cemetery, Kew

This Greek-temple-like tomb was erected in 1901 by Dr John Springthorpe, in memory of his wife Annie, who had died in childbirth four years earlier. It's about four metres each way, and sits in a garden plot 25m square, just on the crest of the hill in Kew Cemetery - on a clear day you can see all the way to Mount Macedon. The memorial, which was designed by Harold Desbrowe Annear, has black marble columns and granite pediments, bronze gargoyles, railings, and bronze inscriptions, a handpainted tile floor, and a magical rose-red stained glass domed ceiling. The sarcophagus over Annie's tomb and the marble statuary group were made by Bertram Mackennal. The memorial cost Dr Springthorpe ten thousand pounds and took four years to construct. The Bulletin reviewed it when it was finally completed, summing it up as "Melbourne's Taj Mahal."

1901 was the year Queen Victoria died. Socially and aesthetically, Annie Springthorpe's tomb epitomises the Victorian cult of death. It is austere and extravagant; classically formal and restrained in outline, but heavily decorated on its surfaces with writing, carving and colour from the ceiling; it gives a monumentally public form to an intensely private grief and mourning. I think it is extremely creepy and also extremely beautiful.

The marble statues inside the temple are very lovely. The dead woman lies cold and serene on a formal bier. The Immortal angel, compassionate but remote, bends lovingly over her, placing a wreath above her head (the wreath is missing now.)

At the foot of the bier is a haunting, crouching, veiled female figure holding a lyre: she represents Human love and Grief.

The light from the stained glass is a pale but rich red, and it makes the marble glow, very softly on a cloudy day, more intensely when the sun is strong.

Just about every flat surface inside the tomb has something written on it. Around the pediments are verses from the Bible written in Greek. All over the floor you can read quotations from poems by Robert and Elizabeth Browning, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and Tennyson. What you will not read anywhere is Annie's name: Springthorpe intended the memorial to be 'infinite and eternal', and to bespeak Annie's 'sweet pure influence' to all mourners who saw her 'Temple-Tomb' in years to come. The painted tiles give the dates of Annie's birth, marriage, and death, and describe her simply as 'Pattern Daughter, Perfect Mother, and Ideal Wife.'

One more photograph: Annie Springthorpe on her wedding day.

There is a whole chapter about the Springthorpe Memorial in Pat Jalland's 2002 book Australian Ways of Death, should you want to know more.


R H said...

"Taj Mahal" That's what I was going to say. (Damn bloody Bulletin!)

But ten thousand quid! Goodness gracious me, he could have built a mansion in Toorak for that.

This is one of the best blog postings I've ever seen. You have a rich vocabulary and you use it well. The photos too, are marvellous. You really should enquire about producing a book of this kind.

boynton said...

Yes - a great post.
In fact it inspired me to go for a walk and take a look (which is almost meme-like)

The crouching figure is indeed quite haunting.

Zoe said...

Laura, you write beautiful.

Lucy Tartan said...

golly, thank you people. I'm really pleased you thought it worth going to actually have a look at the thing Boynton. One major reason for me taking up this sculpture of the week project is to get me out of the house and out of my routine and going somewhere i wouldn't normally go. And I'm really enjoying it.
RH you know I can't talk to you till you answer my email or at least upload one measly little pic to flickr. If you want to read a good blog my favourite in the whole world in pseudopodium, though you probably know all about it already.
Just on the ten thousand pounds: He could have built a mansion but he already had a very nice house at 83 Collins St which he transformed into a shrine to Annie after she died. The whole thing: pictures and letters all over the walls, candles etc. He would not get rid of the piece of floor matting onto which she haemorraged (spelling?) which seems openly pathological to me. So building the tomb was his way out of moving grief out of the house and into the public sphere.
You can see how fascinating the thing is for me.
It was Annie's money that he used. He was well-off, but she was a rich girl. Her parents were less than pleased about that way of spending the money because of her four children.

Zoe, I just came upon a comment you left on an old post. I think I know who your friend is. There are only two possibilities in Canberra. Initials NH?? What a cack!

Scrivener said...

This page loaded easily for me.

Nice post. I have told you before how much fun this "meme" is, right? Thanks for this.

The tomb seems to me creepy and beautiful too, and so ripe for analysis--the need to project his wife ad an ideal and the concurrent need to remove her from the memorial by refusing to name her, rendering her the missing center of the memorial. How cool.

Phantom Scribbler said...

I wish more people would adopt this meme, though I doubt that many could pull it off as thoughtfully as you do, Laura. So fascinating! And you are a master at pointing to the most meaningful detail, and then stepping out of the way to let us see it unencumbered.

If you are not careful, you will have groupies on your doorstep waiting to read your dissertation.

katy said...

That stained glass ceiling is exquisite. If it clears up today, my fella and I are going to bike along the Yarra Trail and I will insist we make a detour to this shrine.

I *heart* this meme of yours :)

boynton said...

I hadn't realised the Kew Cemetery was so old, and must go back for a long exploration.
Your fabulous post piqued my interest in this story and I found an Age article by Pat Jalland.

It's fascinating ground.

R H said...

Dear Miss Laura (if I may) Greetings!

I'm sorry, but here at the R.H. Temple of Extreme Thought (managed and staffed by R.H.) we do not respond to emails. Laughter, that's our response. Or a quiet giggle, late at night.

I don't know the blog you mention, but I mainly read Miss Brownie. Her blog is eclectic. Covers everything. Enough for me. Apart from that, there's another bird calling herself 'on the beach at the end of the world'. Well now, as a pervert from way back, I find that idea most appealing. An attractive little fantasy. A daydream. Yes. But not everyone is like me of course. And golly, I'd never want that! Appalling! End of the world.

I am strange, a bit of a weirdo, but I'll tell you this, I am no fool. This posting of yours has enormous potential. Cinematic potential. Watch out for Paul Cox.

Anonymous said...

Have to say she looked miserable on her wedding day.

I wondered what happened to the family which set my fingers a-googlin'. Bingo. He was an army doctor in WW1, and did a lot of psychiatric work.

His papers are with the War Memorial, but a short summary says:

"Springthorpe was known as 'Springy', due to his diminutive stature but dynamic personality and lively mind. He kept detailed notes and recorded his ideas and thoughts in notebooks which he kept, with interruptions, since 1883. He married Annie Constance Marie Inglis with Methodist forms at Richmond, Victoria, on 26 January 1887. They had four children. She died during childbirth in 1897. He married Daisie Evelyn Johnstone, a nurse and daughter of his housekeeper on 15 March 1916, at Hawthorne, Victoria. Springthorpe died at Richmond, on 22 April 1933. His was survived by his second wife and three of the four children of his first marriage. His youngest son, Guy, became a well-known Melbourne psychiatrist."

- barista

Brownie said...

Laura - that was beautiful thank you.and he remained a widower for 19 years. I discussed baby sun care with your gorgeous Mr greenhair.
RH - you are a prince. in wegglywoo's pillowbook, her story titled Windows is excellently written, n'est ce pas?
Did anybody else notice that Annie was married and buried on her birthday?

Lucy Tartan said...

she looks miserable, Barista? I don't think it's too bad a photo given how still a person had to sit for the long exposure. The au naturel eyebrows are a tiny bit forbidding.

Springthorpe kept a mammoth five volume journal of the period from her death to the completion of the tomb. That is not with his papers in canberra, but in the Vic state library. He wrote there (among many other things) that the photographs he had were no consolation - the 'still unchanging eyes' made him tremenously un happy as he was embarked upon a process of trying to convince himself of the reality of immortality after death. I don't believe he succeeded. the diary he wrote reminds me very strongly of A.S. Byatt's novel Possession.

If anyone's still interested in Kew cemetery, there is a very very good essay by Susan K Martin in the most recent issue of Postcolonial Studies which discusses the cemetery as, among other things, a pleasure ground and Saturday afternoon destination for sweethearts. Sue also talks about the significance of leaving Annie's name off the monument as someone mentioned earlier in these comments.

R H said...

Yes Miss Brownie, I am royalty, King of the Entire Western Suburbs. Unfortunately, my subjects have no knowledge of this. Perhaps I should knock on their doors and tell them.

But meanwhile, you are a fine detective; a keen observer of fact; I refer to your comparison of dates. N'est ce pas.

I've read none of Miss Woo Woo's fiction. -Or perhaps I have, without realising it.

Yours (most charmingly)

Scrivener said...

Oooh, I'm "gorgeous" now? Is it just because of the green hair? I don't think anyone's ever called me that before, hope it wasn't entirely sarcastic...

Zoe said...

Yep, it would be the NH. I picked "Sin on Wheels", and like it very, very much.

I got the full speech about you, too. She's a big fan.

Brownie said...

RH - look in the beachgirls sidebar for PillowBook, go to Windows. Very erotic. and make yourself a blog so we can stop whispering to each in other bloggers screenrooms.
Mr Morgen: no sarcasm at all. The students reactions were fascinating - as a mature age uni student I found the young ones to be very conservative, in that if they had outlandish dress, it was the same outlandish as everyone else. XXX

Zoe - Springys over-the-top mourning may have been a manifestation of some guilt? I am thinking this to counter-act the romantic appeal of it, because I cannot believe that men ever actually really love women - it's just lust and laundry and after they get their little princes, they say 'get a life' and they leave.

R H said...

Men don't really love women? Miss Brownie, you're trying to be controversial. And will probably succeed.

But of course men really love women!- and get dependant on them too, like nothing else!

Miss Brownie my career as a blog reply person has been terrifying enough, having my own blog would be curtains. Meanwhile, I've read Miss Woo Woo's story. Here's my critique: Too long. Too many adjectives. Too many unfunny metaphors. And so on. And on....

That is all.


Brownie said...

rh - NOT being inflammatory at all - just life's experience speaking. Dependence or co-dependence, is not love - that's the first thing they clear up in marriage guidance counselling. I am suspicious of Springthorpe's level of devotion.

you have a twin mind - the first time I read you I thought 'It's Him!' He would have judged that story exactly the way you did. He is in Harrow England and we clashed on a women-crime-writer's blog last year. You 'channel' him - it is spooky possums (because I know from one of your posts elsewhere that you really are not him just a brain twin.) keep taking the tablets. XX brownie.

Susoz said...

I must say I found the picture of Annie a bit of a come-down after the beautiful memorial. She was very plain.

R H said...

When I was in grade 6, the smartest, best looking and most popular kid in the class, went head over heels for the plainest-looking girl. She was a frump.

I remember most of all how on the last day when he received his medallion as dux of the class, he was asked to take it around the room and show it to all the kids. He paused so long at her desk, and held it so close to her face, that everyone giggled.

I couldn't understand it. It's astonishing. Yes, but it happens.

If a film is ever made about Mrs Springthorpe you can bet she'll look beautiful. Because that's what film does. It's what all popular culture does. It tells lies. Big lies.

Anonymous said...

Did Springthorpe's wife meet an unexpected death due to too much opium during her birth of her son.
Why are the poppy flowers on each foot of the bier? i.e. Poppys represent pain relief

lucy tartan said...

The poppies represent rest and forgetfulness - oblivion.