Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gravestones as Art? - Tombstone Tuesday

The head and footstones of John Foster, buried at the Dorchester, Massachusetts North Burial Ground were removed and are currently displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  Replica stones were placed in the cemetery.  Foster was a Harvard educated mathematician and astronomer, who died young in 1681.  These are the only gravestones on display in the new American Wing, although there are plenty of mummies and other funerary pieces on display in the Egyptian and other ancient art galleries.



Father Time wrestling with the Grim Reaper

Epitaph:
The
INGENIOUS
Mathematician and Printer
Mr. JOHN FOSTER
AGED 33 YEARS DYED SEPTr 9TH
1681

[in latin]
Living thou studiest the stars; dying mayst though, Foster
I pray, mount above the skies and learn to measure the highest heaven

I measure it, and it is mine; the Lord Jesus has bought it for me
Nor am I held to pay aught for it but thanks

on the footstone:
ARS ILLI SUE CENSUS ERAT-
SKILL WAS HIS CASH

According to the book Artists of Colonial America, by Elisabeth Louise Roark, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003, page 34, "Foster's will lists 20 to 30 shillings to 'pay for a pair of handsome Gravestones'."
http://www.cityofboston.gov/parks/HBGI/hbginfo.asp?ID=5   The City of Boston Historic Burial Grounds Website, link to the Dorchester North Burial Ground
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Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

2 comments:

  1. i agree, they make good art and offer a glimpse into a society that doesn't exist anymore, so why not in a museum?

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