Italy’s Angel of Grief

Angel of Grief Sculpture – The Beauty in Something So Painful:

While in Italy peering over the graves of the famous English Romantic poets John Keats and Percy Shelley, my classmates and I were directed towards a life-sized angelic creature draped over a tomb. Rather than paying tribute to the deceased, this angel constantly weeps and dramatically expresses the pain of those who are left behind and still alive. It easily became my favorite piece in the cemetery, possibly my favorite sculpture I saw during my time in Italy.

Built in 1894, the “Angel of Grief” or the “Weeping Angel” is a sculpture created by William Wetmore Story, an American sculptor who studied and lived in Italy. Fully known as “The Angel of Grief Weeping Over the Dismantled Altar of Life”, the famous piece was once solely dedicated to his wife, Emelyn Story, but now serves as the headstone for both William and Emelyn at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.

After losing his loved one, William Story lost all interest in sculpture. Eventually though, he was inspired by his children to create the monument in honor of memorializing her. Story wrote that: “It represents the Angel of Grief, in utter abandonment, throwing herself with drooping wings and hidden face over a funeral altar. It represents what I feel. It represents Prostration. Yet to do it helps me.” According to an article in The Guardian, the Weeping Angel is “one of the most copied images in the world” – now used for numerous graves around the world constructed in the same style of Story’s angel.

About the Author: Brenna Bacci is a Junior Marketing and Supply Chain Management major. She is from Cleveland, Ohio and has recently traveled to Italy.

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