My Material Life

The Mourners Are Here

I clipped this from the New York Times months ago.  There’s something about these sad little men that captivates me.  I was so happy to learn that they were making a stop at the beautiful Legion of Honor in San Francisco.  Then I forgot all about them until I heard on the radio that they are here now.  The exhibit opened last Saturday and runs through December 31, 2011.

There are 37 of these mourners.  They are 16″ high alabaster sculptures that were carved between 1443 and 1457 for the tomb of John the Fearless (1371 – 1419), the second Duke of Burgundy.  He must have been some guy with a name like that and all the effort that went into his tomb quite some time after his death.

I seem to have an affinity for sculptures that depict sorrow and loss.  I’ve always loved the sad-looking angels you sometimes find at graves in old cemeteries.  I found this beautiful mourner below in the Bath Abbey when we were there in 2009.

I was wondering what the attraction stems from when I read this passage from the curator for the San Francisco presentation, Dr. Lynn Federle Orr:  I remember so clearly sitting in a dark hall for an Art 1 slide lecture and being startled by an image of the simple, but powerful, beauty of the Dijon Mourners. In one of those transformative moments, I was entranced by these small figures. They spoke so eloquently across the centuries about what it means to be human.

You can learn more about the mourners and even view the sculptures individually in 360 degrees and 3D by clicking here. For information about the exhibit at the Legion of Honor, click here.

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