Friday, July 11, 2008

William Park

The gravestone for the six Childs Children was carved by the William Park shop in Groton (thx, RJO). This workshop's designs are characterized by deep-set "portraits" of the deceased, which are often framed by small arched or round windows (see the Jonas Stone stone (1790), Lexington, MA, above). The portraits are stylized and are not necessarily faithful to the person's countenance, but they do seem to approximate the person's gender and age.

One interesting thing the Park workshop is that it produced some double stones with unusual, asymmetrical designs. Usually, when two people are buried under the same stone, the stone will bear either a single design or two similar designs. The John and Leanard Locke stone (1791) is an example of this. Other examples include the Williams brothers stone, the John and Mary Pitman stone, and the Wait and William Tripp stone.

The Park workshop bucked convention on at least two occasions. The Benjamin and Mary Cutler stone (1776) in Lexington has two different tympanum designs. Benjamin's side of the stone features a winged soul effigy, while Mary's side has a portrait similar to those of the Childs daughters'.
There is a similar stone from the same year in Fitchburg (photo credit RJO). This one is dedicated to infant siblings, Israel and Molly Garfield.
As on the Cutler stone, the boy/man is commemorated with a winged soul effigy, while the girl/woman has an un-winged portrait under an arch. I don't know whether there's any ideological significance to this, but it strikes me as odd. Looking back over my photographs, I couldn't find any examples from this workshop in which a woman's or girl's stone features a winged figure. That may just be because I wasn't looking for those stones when I was in the field. I'll keep an eye open for them next time.

1 comment:

RJO said...

I read a small study not long ago (in Markers?) that tabulated the winged vs. wingless heads according to sex. It was indeed the case that winged heads were generally males and wingless were generally females, but it was a far from perfect correlation. (I want to say it was something like 75% of males had wings.) I don't believe it was broken down further; say, by carver. It's easy to imagine that (say) the Park shop always distinguished males from females in this way, but other carvers did not, and so if you just sample randomly you'll get a mix. That would be an interesting further study, to add some more resolution to the original investigation.