Wailing over the dead


In traditional memorial sculpture, wailers have been featured as angels or women. Adhering, in this sense, to tradition, the artist suggests a different take on the image of the wailing angel. The angel’s tightly-huddled figure has an invisible inner source of powerful energy. Its noiseless weeping lapses into stifled sobs, as grief mingles with protest. The composition is dominated by diagonal rhythms, with every turn in the forms sudden and sharp, every detail crisp and structured. This angel is free from the meditative lyricism typical in classical tombstones. Although wailing is generally regarded as an emotionally static situation, in contradistinction to actions such as burial, the image conveys the unabating drama of bereavement. Sharing the family’s grief, the angel seems unable or unwilling to accept the individual’s death. This prolongation of the wailing, untypical in the order of angels, humanizes the image. Maybe this explains why the angel’s ubiquitous attribute, its wings, is so greatly understated in the imagery of the composition. The small round lumps only slightly soften the angular rhythms of the internal axes and balance the dynamics of the hunched figure. However, the obvious human undertones in the angel’s weeping do not trivialize the drama but take it to a level of great emotional power.

 

Brief annotations to the image

WAILING, in the rite of burial, is a deep sorrow, grieving over a loss, accompanied with mournful weeping; it is an integral part of the rituals associated with funerals and subsequent acts of remembrance. In religious art, the iconography of scenes with wailing is different from the “Pieta” in terms of the figures depicted.