Angel of Grief

The "Angel of Grief" (1894-5) was the last work of American sculptor William Wetmore Story in memory of his wife. He was an artist of some note (born in 1819 in Salem, MA and working in Italy) whose work may be seen in such places as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The original monument is located in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome over his and his wife’s graves.

An article written in the Sept. 1896, issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine stated:

“The loss of the wife of his youth whom he survived but a year, was a bitter blow; and with her passed his interest in affairs. It was only when his children suggested that he should make a monument to her memory that he consented to resume work; the design he chose was the “Angel of Grief", and it is wrought to exquisite finish, as are the statues modeled in his summer prime. When this was done he left the studio never to return."

Our monument is one of a number of copies that can be found across the country in the large “garden cemeteries" that sprang up in the last half of the 19th century. (There is also one at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, for example.) Our “Angel of Grief" was carved in Italy from Cararra marble probably by many artisans, each a craftsman of a particular specialty such as feet, wings, faces, etc. as was customary at the time.  Completion of this solid piece of marble sculpture took a great length of time, and when it finally arrived in Boston, we understand that the crate was dropped onto the pier as it was being unloaded, breaking the statue into numerous pieces. The work had to be started again. 

Through the generosity of the descendants of Maria Hooper in whose memory the “Angel of Grief" was placed in our cemetery, the statue was repaired and cleaned in 1998. The Museum of Fine Arts referred us to artisan Reno Pisano, of Nahant, Massachusetts to do this delicate hand work.  The angel’s left art is unsupported and hangs freely. Over the years not only had the arm broken off, but fingers had been smashed and lost. Pisano first found matching Carrara marble, then sculpted new fingers to add to the hand. A titanium pin was inserted from hand to arm, and another from lower arm to upper arm. All was attached with a strong epoxy glue. To the praises of many, the angel was once again complete.  

A note of interest: Three noted American sculptors of the 19th century have works presiding within the cemetery grounds. Along with William Wetmore Story’s  “Angel of Grief" mentioned above, Thomas Gould sculpted the impressive statue of Gov. John A. Andrew, and Larkin Meade contributed the “Recording Angel." All three men were New Englanders, all studied and worked in Florence, Italy, in the late 1800’s, and all must certainly have known one and other. Their works reside within 1/4 mile of each other within Hingham Cemetery.


Angel Monument