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Living with the Dead in France: 19th Century Tomb Sculpture

Presented by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, with Suzanne Glover Lindsay, Adjunct Associate Professor, History of Art, University of Pennsylvania

2013-09-19 FLYER French 19th-C Tomb Sculpture.jpg

In her book Funerary Arts and Tomb Cult: Living with the Dead in France, 1750–1870 (2012, Ashgate Publishing) Lindsay argues that radical changes in 19th-century French tombs owe much to France's renewed desire for a close relationship between the living and their dead following the inhumanities of the Revolution. As is well established, the French demanded reform for urban burials after decades of worsening conditions, resulting in the innovative public garden cemetery (Père-Lachaise, Paris, 1804). What is less familiar is their reexamination of architecture, gardens, and sculpture as “speaking” forms about burial and cult of the dead for modern France. These issues provide the vital frame for a little commented art-historical phenomenon: the revival, despite decades of disdain and disuse in France as nowhere else in Europe, of a compelling historical type of funerary sculpture, the "macabre" effigy of the deceased as dying or dead, for placement in garden cemeteries as well as in traditional chapels. This unsettling figure type became instantly famous, garnered high critical praise, and, though rare, contributed to the resurgence of funerary cult as a dominant, often dramatic, feature of public life in 19th-century France. As cultic centerpieces of a landscaped burial zone, these effigy tombs elicited a complex new interplay of the visitor and buried corpse, nature, architecture, and sculpture. Lindsay concludes with preliminary observations on 19th-century American examples. Join us for this fascinating illustrated discussion in one of Philadelphia's great garden cemeteries.

Cost: $5.00 for Phila Chapter SAH and Friends of the Woodland members, $10.00 for all others.
Checks payable 
to Phila Chapter SAH.

Please register with Mary Anne Eves at or call 610-566-2342.


Earlier Event: September 10
Community Garden Workday
Later Event: October 5
Archaeology Discovery Day