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
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
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 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
The trees and plants, here by accident or by design, are in good shape.
Beautifully variegated, self-seeded …
… or perhaps not. Next to a well-tended plot
Shaded by a traditional yew tree
A more controlled planting
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 his or her charge
Memorial family group
Grieving family group
Overcome with grief
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.
Slabs of stone can be incised …
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
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 …
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
(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
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
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
… a memorial style …
Journalism is an honoured profession in Brazil
… or a more symbolic portrayal.
The grain of marble like falling light
Purely cast bas-relief can also be found.
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
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
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
Tomb components with instructions for assembly
Memorial sculpture can be showily theatrical or surprisingly frank here.
The archangel Michael, though here it could be Candomblé deity Eshu
The Last Kiss by Alfredo Oliani. Her eyes are already sunken in death
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
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.
The dead tellingly marked by absence
More at http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cemit%C3%A9rio_S%C3%A3o_Paulo