Memorial for Henry (1822-1882) and Melissa (1828-1915) Denison and two of their five children in Oakwood Cemetery, 940 Comstock Avenue, next to Syracuse University, in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York. Dr. Henry De La Maitre Denison was a trained surgeon and industrialist who built railroads and canals. One son, Henry, died at the age of three and a daughter, Florence, at one year and nine months.
At first glance, this beautifully serine statue depicts a mother and her departed children, but look a little closer. These well-fed but hungry children are literally pulling off her tunic and staring at what they hope will be the source of their next meal. This is clearly meant to be a metaphor for nourishing motherhood, but I wonder if this scenario was born in the sculptor’s imagination, or whether the family specifically requested it.
Oakwood Cemetery was designed by landscape architect Howard Daniels and opened in 1859. It is a secular Victorian “rural” or “garden” style cemetery where over 60,000 people are interred in 160 wooded acres.