John Howard Memorial Sketch
John Howard Memorial Sketch
This most unusual folk art drawing and watercolor depicts the memorial monument to John Howard, who died in 1790. Howard was a noted English prison reformer who died of typhus (common in prisons due to inhumane conditions) while on a philanthropic trip to Ukraine. This monument was erected in Kherson.
I suspect this depiction of the monument came from what I like to call a “travel album.” People loved to document their travels in journals, scrapbooks, etc. and if you’re lucky there will be sketches of whatever caught the person’s eye. I’m sure you’ll agree this is much more interesting than an iphone full of photos.
They took some artistic license here: The modern photos I’ve seen of the monument do not show any cypress trees within the stone circle that surrounds it. I wonder if there had been cypress trees at the time, or if the artist added them as a sentimental flourish. From antiquity, cypress trees have been a symbol of mourning. The composition of this piece reminds me just a little of Böcklin’s cypress-crowded “Isle of the Dead.”
The note at the bottom describes the symbolism on the obelisk:
“Esto fidelis usque ad mortem et dabo tibi coronam vitae. (Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you a Crown of Life, Rev 2:10.) Howard’s monument - Died Jan 25th, 1790, aged 65. The sundial near the summit exhibits the hours 10 to 2 only as if to intimate that
a large portion of life is past ere we enter on the discharge of its active duties & that with many the performance of them close at an early hour after the meridian of their days.”
Presented in a lovely antique frame, 7.5” x 6.5”.
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