Monday, June 25, 2012

Angels, Cherubs and Puttos at Mountain View Cemetery

Crocker Angel (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Schmidt Angel (photo by Michael Colbruno)

The Crocker and Schmidt angels have become the unofficial icons of Mountain View Cemetery. An angel sitting on a grave, like these angels,  represents an untimely death. Albert Schmidt, a prominent real estate developer, erected this angel in memory of his daughter who died from a bout with acute appendicitis. You can read about Henry Crocker at a previous post.

These two angels are probably the most photographed graves at Mountain View Cemetery. There are entire websites and photo sites dedicated to funerary angels and they seem to fascinate people of all ages. Angels are generally thought of as messengers to heaven and therefore always have wings, although that wasn't always the case. Originally, angels were depicted as young men and didn't appear with wings until the 5th century. As you can see from these pictures of some of the more prominent angels at Mountain View Cemetery, they can evoke a number of moods and are often covered with symbolism.

Edward Bushell Angel (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Edward Bushell was described by the Oakland Tribune as a "capitalist."

Edward Newland (photo by Michael Colbruno)
 You can read about Edward and Kate Newland at a previous post.

Tribute to Ralph & Nellie (photo by Michael Colbruno)
This putto appears to be in honor of Ralph Mead's children Ralph and Nellie. A putto is a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually nude and sometimes winged. In decorative art they represent the purveyor of love.

Crane putto (photo by Michael Colbruno)
This is another version of a putto. The realistic face set in wings evolved from the skull set in wings known as "Death's Head." Other symbols to look for that honor children are an angel holding flowers, which usually indicates the death of a child.  Angels with daisies represent the innocence and purity of a child and an angel with roses is an appeal to the Virgin Mary.

Conrad Liese Angel (photo by Michael Colbruno)
The Conrad Liese angel is packed with symbolism. An angel pointing one finger upward is leading the soul toward heaven (two fingers pointing up represents the hand of God); the trumpet represents the Archangel Gabriel who stands ready to issue the call to resurrection; the star on an angel's crown indicates the spirit rising to heaven. You can read more about Conrad Liese at a previous post

Other symbols that can be found with angels include:
  • Swords, which convey protection, leadership, purity in thought and valor. 
  • Scrolls, which represent messages, oracles, divine communications, faith or sacred knowledge 
  • Roses in the hand of an angel can represent everlasting love or purity. A lily can represent either purity or faith in God.    
  • Flames and torches convey the inner light of the soul. Occasionally, and angel can be found at the grave of a child with an upside down torch, which represents a life extinguished too soon. 
  • The wings are symbols of the higher realms of existence, ascension and spiritual mobility.
  • Hearts can convey health, healing, love, devotion and compassion. These are more common in Catholic cemeteries.     
  • Trumpets and horns announce important news or a triumphant declaration.
Bradbury Angel (photo by Michael Colbruno)
The angel sits on a track that moves when the door of the family mausoleum is opened. You can read about Simona and Lewis Bradbury at a previous post

Below you'll find a weeping angel grieving over two hearts, which is one of the more recent additions to the cemetery. Below that is an angel embedded in a gravestone, which honors Thomas Rickard, an early pioneer of Berkeley.

Emma Au weeping angel (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Thomas Rickard (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Hugh McCormick Angel (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Nancy Joyce Nutter Angel (photo by Michael Colbruno)

JR Hord Angel (photo by Michael Colbruno)
We don't know much about J.R. Hord, but he's one of the few burials who was born in the 18th century.
Kittie's Angel  (photo by Michael Colbruno)
This angel, who has unfortunately lost her left hand and a cross from her right hand to the ravages of time, was built in memory of Catherine Bathrust Thomson. Known as Kittie, she lived from 1861-65. Her father was a prominent politician and trustee at Mountain View Cemetery. You can read more about him at a previous post.

Elizabeth Miller (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Nelly Albeck (photo by Michael Colbruno)
The laurel wreath that this angel is holding can represent spiritual victory, eternity, immortality and chastity. Laurel leaves represent the concept of eternity and immortality because they don't fade or wilt.

Elizabeth Martin (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Barsam Movessian (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Jane Anne Grening 1927-28 (photo by Michael Colbruno)

Leonard Overton (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Charles Twombly (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Like the Bradbury angel above, the Twombly angel sits on a track that moves when the door of the family mausoleum is opened. You can read about the Twombly and Burchard families at a previous post.



Jeff said...

Excellent photos as always Michael. Sorry if this question is off topic, but out of all of the people interred at Mountain View who was the most prominent during their time? I know there are several governors and millionaires, were there any presidential candidates? Just wondering what you think and thanks in advance!

Chris Pattillo said...


This is one of your best posts ever and the photos are wonderful. I had no idea photography was one of your great talents.


Robert Giles said...

One of the smaller angels in Mountain View was stolen just after I photographed it around 1994, I think. I don't remember the family name but you can see the base clearly where it was lifted from…unless it was knocked or fell over and cleaned up. And I'm not sure the Nutter angel is still there, I haven't noticed it. The smaller ones are too easy for vandals and thieves.
The Miller Angel looks like it was broken and repaired before but then around 1998 or so it was missing the trumpet, arm and wing on that side…parts were lying on the ground and I went to Office to tell them and ask they take them in for protection…and agin a month later I saw they never bothered, and went to ask again. They never did.
There is supposed to be a black Market in funerary sculptures according to an article I read quite a while ago. For along time Green-Wood in Brooklyn would not even let you shoot photos, maybe worried about this.