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Catalog Data

James Monahan (Firm)  Search this
Cast iron
Rococo Revival
Savannah, Georgia, United States
ca. 1850
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast-iron gate, probably for cemetery, with two lambs under a weeping willow. Sources have called this design the Psalm 23 design, referring to a scripture frequently read during mourning or at the funeral by those of the Christian and Jewish faiths. The verse, also called the "Dominus regit me" states, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.” In mourning symbolism, the weeping willow represents grief, sorrow, and mourning. The lambs could be significant of the loss of a young child or as a symbol of Christian faith. The birds may be swallows, indicative of a child or motherhood, or they may be doves, in which case they would refer to purity and devotion to the Christian faith. Since the birds are in flight, they also signify the “winged soul” set free by death into eternal life.
Label Text:
Cemeteries held a very important place in the lives of nineteenth century Americans. Rural cemeteries—such as Mount Auburn, organized in Boston in 1831 and Spring Grove in Cincinnati, Ohio, founded in 1845—were an integral part of American life. Cemeteries were beautifully landscaped and functioned much like a park. These retreats offered escape from the unpleasant conditions of the growing industrial centers. Families often planned special days, including a picnic, which were spent with their dear departed loved ones. The gravesites were elaborately landscaped and fitted out with furniture, fencing, and other accessories such as urns and statuary. Many of these pieces were the same designs and acquired from the same sources as the pieces chosen for the lawn and conservatory. Furniture manufacturers found a profitable market selling their wares as memorials. Identical styles were advertised and sold to furnish cemetery plots.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, fencing was often used to surround a plot or group of plots from one family, and they were paired with elaborate gates. Cemetery gates were both functional and decorative and were adorned with all the symbols of loss and mourning or fashionable revival style motifs of the Victorian age. The name of the family or person was immortalized in iron on the plot enclosures next to symbolic elements and decorative motifs. Cast iron was a popular material for these due to its durability, affordability, and the decorative possibilities of these pieces. It was usually paired with an iron fence; however, it was not unheard of to find cast iron gates with wood or stone fencing.
Inscription on top iron frame: James Monahan Maker Savannah Georgia.
cast iron  Search this
gates  Search this
cemeteries  Search this
graves  Search this
Lambs  Search this
religious art  Search this
religious symbolism  Search this
Weeping willow  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
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Usage conditions apply
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Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens