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Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America$
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Jennifer Van Horn

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469629568

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469629568.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 30 July 2021

Portraits in Stone

Portraits in Stone

(p.156) Chapter 3 Portraits in Stone
Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America

Jennifer Van Horn

University of North Carolina Press

Elite residents of Charleston, South Carolina, sought a unique means of memorializing their dead: gravestones embellished with bust-length depictions of the deceased. Commissioned from stone carvers in Boston, these portrait gravestones reimagined the small, ivory form of the portrait miniature at a public scale suitable for the cemetery. This chapter examines why Charlestonians patronized this type of memorial, tying the gravestones to residents’ horror at the savagery unleashed upon corpses by putrefaction and to their desire to preserve bodies’ former politeness. Considering portrait gravestones along with mourning rituals and coffin construction illuminates the stones’ role as protective containers that kept savagery at bay, an important function given Charleston’s high death rate and steamy climate. Recognizing the memorials’ similarity to boundary markers, such as those erected to mark the Mason Dixon line, illuminates how the gravestones demarcated a space of colonial control. By erecting stone portraits of civil persons, Charlestonians created a social network with incredible permanence.

Keywords:   Gravestone, Portrait, Putrefaction, Cemetery, Mourning ritual, Coffin, Boundary marker, Mason Dixon line, Portrait miniature, Charleston

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