The famous cemetery at Recoletta, the final resting place of Eva Peron and a host of Argentine greats, including eminent Statesmen, Artists, Doctors and Scientists, Presidents and Generals.
It is often compared to Pére Lachaise in Paris, but if anything the tombs are even more spectacular and grandiose. Have a look and see…
Yes, Grecian urns and swags of garlands, chubby putti and heraldic shields and a thousand still or flapping angels, this place has the lot.
As you see, most of the tombs are the size of small houses. For that reason, and also because the cemetery is laid out on a street plan, so you feel as though you are walking around a small town. A very quiet but richly and luxuriously appointed town. Quite bizarre, morbid but beautiful.
There are, of course, an awful lot of angels.
Then there are other lovely willowy women, who look like angels but are really various sorts of allegorical figures, “the arts”; “science” “progress” and all that sort of thing.
Some of the stone and bronze work might boarder on the kitch…. (well, okay, more than boarder in this case)
Be that as it may, the standard of work is super-high.
As fashions changed, even the dead keep up.
This, above, is same tomb as the top two images, just a different angle, to show more angles…
I liked this tomb, above, which seems to be based on Bramante’s famous Renaissance Tempietto (S. Pietro in Montorio.)
Here is some more fine bronze work. The wild mix of styles in the cemetery mimics Buenos Aires at large, from austere Greek revival to jazzy Egyptian Art Deco, it really has it all. This a crypt belonging to a military man, – there’s no mistaking the martial iconography on this shield, but with Spanish Christian name, Germanic-sounding surname, while the design and decoration on the the shield itself is distinctly French in flavour.
The same chap. He, or his family, clearly keen his accomplishments should not be forgotten.
But , if you thought that was vainglorious, just wait until you see the next one,
here just below….
Ah yes, the well-known tomb the size of a small church.. ermm.. motif.
In this case a rather beautiful Victorian Gothic revival church, so we shall forgive them. Still, look how BIG it is!
Again though, the quality of work is wonderful…. look below at this detail from the entrance doorway, and over the door, that ultimate Northern Gothic motif.. the Rose window.
As you see, the work was so good some fiend has gone and stole the angels heads.
I’m sure there’s a special part of hell reserved for people who vandalise people’s tombs, who vandalise art in general and who smash the heads off angels. May they burn in it.
I liked these bronze doors also, they remind me of Ghiberti slightly, but then again, Bronze door equals him. And, with the diaphanous veil-like garments… Rodin and Michelangelo also.
So, perhaps the work jsut reminds me of all the really famous people really. Which made me think, this artist may have been (okay, was) derivative, But he sure knew how to press the right buttons.
Maybe he was not a hack. maybe he was a genius, who just never got the break. So, instead of getting big original commissions, and instead of being feted and lionized, like Rodin et al,. he had to work in an iron-foundry all his life, churning out copies of gravestone decorations which the middle classes could buy out of a catalogue.
All because he lacked a few inter-personal skills, and never worked out how to network, until it was too late. Lets appreciate him now at least.
Detail from bronze doors above.
Some of the tombs really were enormous.
And some of the sculture work was surreal. Coming up soon, a bronze relief with the skeleton of a triceratops dinosaur…
Yes, a triceratops dinosaur…
This tomb was so impressive, particularly the decorative scheme, the bronze reliefs, running around the four sides, that I am going to show it to you from all four angles, in close up… Are you ready?
Okay, the tomb belonged to a very eminent doctor, who was clearly attached to the army for a large part of his illustrious career…
An army surgeon then, and one who lived in interesting times…
There was a lot of war and battles going on, so lots of patients for him to operate on, and experiment with new pioneering treatments.
All around him, war raged and the patients just kept on arriving.
Battles everywhere. Not just your conventional 19th century infantry and cavalry engagements though, oh no….
No there was street fighting and guerilla war, and hand to hand stuff, begorra…
I love the exaggerated perspective in this bas-relief.. almost like a wide-angle fish-eye shot, very dramatic, brilliant really.
In fact, it’s so good lets have a close up look….
Okay, it was so good I had to show you in big size. Amazing the “wide-angle” aspect of the composition. And isn’t the sense of depth and scale also extraordinary. Like a form of magic really. I think so anyway.
Now then, would you like to know what’s just around the corner? Just behind that soldier with the tricorn hat and drawn sabre? Would you? You know you would…
Yes, It’s the good doctor again. After the war, one presumes, away from the rigours of medicine in the field, and with the chance at last to concentrate on his other great love, serious scientific inquiry.
Our good doctor was especially a lover of fossils and as you see, a re-constructor of dinosaur skeletons. Once again, I really think this is worth a closer look.
“No, no, my dear Professor Lopez, I assure you, this is belongs in the shoulder joint, t’is surely part of the clavicle, of the great lizard-monster-beast.”
Okay, just two more tombs to show you… Both, again military men. Wait until you see this next guy, he scared the life out of me, which i have no doubt was his intention.
Humour, from beyond the grave. Imagine turning the corner and seeing… this…
Imagine turning the corner, as i did, innocently minding my own business, and running headlong into this.
Perfectly life-sized, extremely realistic and very fierce and martial- looking. Gave me a jolt anyhow. (Had to give the old bugger a small kick in revenge, practically broke my toe)
Anyway, here’s another tomb, below. Civilian this time, for once…
Here’s the important husband…
and here is his beloved, yet ever so slightly less-important wife. She gets a bust, you note, rather than full-figure statue. (One has to think of the estate, death duties and all that.)
Okay, just one more tomb, below… But it’s a corker.
More war, as you see, raging in the background. Here is a nice woman and on the other side, her husband (I imagine it must be her husband) facing her on the other side of this frieze…
Here he is…
This is fascinating. You will note there are various ferocious types on horse back behind the two main characters. How to read this.. How to decode, as it were? What on earth is going on? What is this tomb trying to tell us?
Did she lose him to war? Or did he lose her to war? Or God forbid, did they both perish?
The closer you look, the more interesting it gets. If you really squint and look close, you’ll see the figures on horseback bhind her are not European-style cavalry, which the Argentines and Uraguayans of that time certainly would have been. Rather they are indigenous American-Indians. So maybe one of our husband and wife couple was carried off, by a raiding war party ? And the other one went looking for them. For years maybe.
It’s The Searchers by John Ford, basically.
By the way, if you’d like to see what a raiding Indian war party of the time looked like, check out the extraordinary picture discussed in my earlier post “A Visit to LAMBA and the Bella Artes” ” If you enjoyed the above piece please leave a comment. If on the other hand if you’d like to go decoding with this writer, in old Dublin-town sometime, have a look at my tours on Dublin Decoded and then drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org – Because this world is here to be read, praised, learned about, loved and decoded. Happy hunting, ladies and gentlemen- Arran.