Angel of Grief

by MSO
Emelyn Wetmore's Angel of Grief tombstone at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.

William Story was an American sculptor who created the Angel of Grief for his wife Emelyn’s grave.

William Wetmore Story graduated from Harvard Law School in 1840 intending to follow in his father’s footsteps but his heart wasn’t in his profession.

He decided to leave his successful career in law and take up sculpturing. When his father Joseph, who was a Supreme Court justice, died he was commissioned to create a statue in his honor and he decided to travel to Rome, Italy to study the techniques of the masters. He completed the statue in 1853 and it is still standing in the Story Chapel of the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts where his parents were laid to rest. It took 15 years for William’s art to become known and he was hailed as the “modern Michelangelo”.

William married Emelyn in the United States when he returned but took his family to Italy, where they would live for the rest of their lives. Emelyn died in 1895 at the age of 74 just after celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. William undertook his last commission, the weeping “Angel of Grief Over the Dismantled Altar Of Life” that adorns her tomb in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. “To do it helps me. She was my stay, my joy, my help in all things. What is left seems to be but a blank of silence, a dead wall which, when I cry out – and I do cry out – only echoes back at my own voice. Where is she? No answer comes.”

William died the following year at the age of 78 and is buried beside his wife. His funeral was held in Rome and was attended by hundreds of people from the United States, Russia and England.

The Angel of Grief has been replicated by sculptors all around the world, in Cuba, Portugal, Mexico, the United States and many more countries.

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