Following on from my recent ornithological cemetery discussion, I would like to explore a range of angels and cherubs – supernatural human-avians I encountered used in funerary art within Helsinki’s fabulous Hietaniemi cemetery.
What strikes me is that (a) the birds share similar allusions to these cherubs and angels, (b) birds might be regarded as a less specifically religious substitute for angels and cherubs for a secular society, and (c) birds make for a more condensed and and versatile medium than angels.
Still, angels and cherubs remain frequent occasional occurrences carved in stone and metal as in three and two dimensions. They are rare among recent graves but relatively common amidst older graves of the 19th and early/mid-20th centuries at Hietaniemi. As such, they provide human representations at the heart of family graves, presiding over the multiple names inscribed below them. Angel take many stances, but they are sometimes in flight, sometimes in dialogue with the living but most often in poses of mourning.
Miniatures for the Cremated Dead
Previously, I identified the importance of birds in articulating the mourning and commemorating of the cremated dead. Here we find cherubs and angels too. They have been reduced in size onto a number of cremation memorials, articulating mourning and ascent.
Angel for the Graveless Dead
There is also an angel (in very abstract form), marking the memorial to those without a marked grave.
Then there are a range of winged abbreviations, such as this wonderful hourglass and wings: tempus fugit indeed!
Pigs might fly
Meanwhile, one gravestone at least seems to have subverted the theme with a flying pig! Cemetery humour undoubtedly, this that mortuary motifs needn’t always reflect serious expressions of loss.