I don't like to go to bed leaving the most recent (distressing) post at the top of the page, I feel weird about it, so I'm re-posting an old one from the archives. Sorry if you've read this already.
* * * * * *
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.
* * * * * *
The original post (for the accompanying original comments thread.)