In a previous post https://theproverbial.org/2012/11/19/sao-paulo-necropolis/  I sketched the history of a leading cemetery, the Cemitério São Paulo on Rua Cardeal Arcoverde. I went back on Sunday for a stroll – it’s a quiet place in a noisy city, its sculptural works are some of the most impressive to be seen, and it’s a noticeably green spot in the concrete jungle which surrounds it.

Angel in the city

Angel in the city

Arriving early, you encounter the destitute who sleep in the shelter of the grand graffiti-ed entrance porch, with blankets, cardboard and plastic for warmth. Some also use cachaça – sugar cane spirit – perhaps mixed with soft drink. In this setting, one is more inclined to think “There but for the grace of God … ” than to condemn.

The other side of the porch was occupied

The other side of the porch was occupied

Rua Conego Leite which leads to this entrance suggests the cemetery’s former grandeur too – a terrace of picturesque Art Nouveau villas hides under painted motley, a neo-classical loggia on one corner of the crescent facing the entrance echoes the porch’s style.

Loggia, corner of Cardeal Arcoverde and Conego Leite

Loggia, corner of R. Cardeal Arcoverde and R. Conego Leite

Inside the cemetery there are signs of life too. I explored another corner this time, and beside a plot too small and awkward to use I found a kind of living space and home-made shrine on the niches for cremations, where a sheltering tree grows.

Someone lives here

Someone lives here

The trees and plants, here by accident or by design, are in good shape.

Beautifully variegated, self-seeded ...

Beautifully variegated, self-seeded …

 ... or perhaps not

… or perhaps not. Next to a well-tended plot

The main monument a traditional yew tree

Shaded by a traditional yew tree

Plants in art and in life

A more controlled planting

Thoughtful integration of plant and stone

Thoughtful integration of plant and stone

The cemetery is thronged with the usual devotional and memorial sculpture – vistas of Christs interspersed with Pietas, the occasional Madonna and Child, grieving families, and a scattering of angels. More unusual examples stand out in this feast of sculpture.

Relaxed, informal angel, awaiting her or his charge

Relaxed, informal angel, awaiting his or her charge

Memorial family group

Memorial family group

Mourning family group

Grieving family group

Overcome with grief

Overcome with grief

Neighbours in death

Neighbours in death

An imaginative approach to sculpture is not restricted to the human figure here. Contrasting colour, shape and texture – an arabesque of carved marble against a slab of dark polished granite – the use of arch- and box-shaped space, the integration of plant life with stonework, even the varying treatments of the plinths, all display the keen Brazilian sense of the visual.

The symbol of the opening door recurs.

Heaven's gate

Heaven’s gate

Slabs of stone can be incised …

Motto on an academic family tomb -

Academic family tomb – “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree” Psalm 92

… whether horizontal or vertical …

Memorial to veteran athletes of Sao Paulo, with Olympic urn

Memorial to veteran athletes of Sao Paulo, with Olympic urn

A poetic adieu, touchingly casual

A poetic adieu, not set in stone

… or indeed casually leaned against a rough-worked upright. A slab of stone can be left symbolically blank …

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Both blank and incised, both symbol and language

Both blank and incised, both symbol and language

… or serve as a sculptural reminder of a first-rank family.

Back of family memorial by Brazilian sculptor Victor Brecheret

Back of family memorial by Brazilian sculptor Victor Brecheret

(Front-facing view on the crest of the hill in my previous post  https://theproverbial.org/2012/11/19/sao-paulo-necropolis/ ) The northern entrance at the bottom of the hill echoes the idea with a more prosaic but nevertheless striking composition in raw concrete.

Northern gatehouse and offices

Northern gatehouse and offices

It’s an effective background to another innovation, stone trelliswork which echoes the pierced wall of concrete and also integrates plant life.

Closed and open

Closed and open

This memorial alerted me to yet another Paulistano immigrant community, the Hungarian, and with the same ‘thoughtful integration of plant and stone’ as the box-shaped Hungarian memorial above, made me ask if I was seeing a Hungarian aesthetic.

Stone of various kinds can be seen in bas-relief too, whether traditional military-style work …

Compare with the WWII Brazilian Italian airman in previous post

Compare with the WWII Brazilian Italian airman in previous post

…  a memorial style …

Journalism is an honoured profession in Brazil

Journalism is an honoured profession in Brazil

… or a more symbolic portrayal.

The grain of marble like falling light

The grain of marble like falling light

Purely cast bas-relief can also be found.

Door to mausoleum shared between three families

Door to mausoleum shared between three families

There are signs that people occupy themselves in varied ways here – placed on the back of one tomb I saw a collection of broken pieces of white marble, and imagined children amusing themselves by collecting them while older family paid their respects and browsed. The staff inter the dead, but they also gather fallen branches, build and make repairs, clean the tombs with feather dusters.

If you visit as I did not to bury or to pay respects to family or friend, nor with a morbid urge, it’s the sculptural aspect which is so striking. A range of examples illustrate the point.

Pensive angel by Gildo Zampol

Pensive angel by Gildo Zampol

Among the angels in white marble which appear here, especially along the walk from the entrance porch leading up to the chapel of rest, this work is outstanding not just for its technical virtuosity – zoom in for a closer look –

Torso close up

Torso close up

but equally for its finely judged expressiveness. This is a portrait, an archetype, and a spiritual ideal. It sits quietly amidst the ritual and the workaday aspects of the cemetery, a beautifully executed artwork.

Window and torchère, chapel of rest

Window and torchère, chapel of rest

Tomb components with instructions for assembly

Tomb components with instructions for assembly

Memorial sculpture can be showily theatrical or surprisingly frank here.

The archangel Michael, though in Brazil it could be Eshu

The archangel Michael, though here it could be Candomblé deity Eshu

The Last Kiss by Alfredo Oliani.

The Last Kiss by Alfredo Oliani. Her eyes are already sunken in death

He is still very much alive

He is still very much alive. Commissioned by a wife for her husband’s tomb

On the ridge of the hill, a well-known though less direct work by another Italian Brazilian sculptor is known as the Túmulo do pão, the Tomb of Bread. It’s a poignant reminder of the impact of a death in the family.

Túmulo da família Forte by Galileo Emendabili

Túmulo da família Forte by Galileo Emendabili

Sculptor of the military obelisk in Ibirapuera Park which commemorates the 1932 Sao Paulo Constitutional Revolution, Emendabili is of course popular here. This smaller-scale, more private work has a huge impact.

The pathos of the boy’s head on the table and the stoical grief of the man are beautifully conveyed. Staged to make full use of its setting, giving the same symbolic weight to the table and to the loaf of bread as to the human figures, this is a tour de force, one of the strongest in an impressive collection of sculptures which stand the test of time.

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The dead tellingly marked by absence

More at http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cemit%C3%A9rio_S%C3%A3o_Paulo