Ancient Greek mythology comes to life in this black and white poster of Niobe. Known as a weeping woman statue, here Niobe kneels atop a pedestal, head in her hand in eternal sorrow, while the other hand clutches a laurel wreath.
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Called the Gray Monument, this weeping woman statue commemorates James Richard Gray (1859-1917) and his wife, May Inman Gray (1862-1940).
Four of their five children and several grandchildren share the plot as well.
Initially a lawyer, James bought the Atlanta Journal with two partners. He shortly became the paper’s President and Editor.
After his death, May and their three sons assumed management roles at the paper and its affiliated radio station, WSB.
Eventually, May became Chairman of the Board, son Inman served as President, and son James Jr. served as Vice President and Editor.
James’ epitaph reads almost like haiku:
The heart of oak the strong arms
The busy hands are dust
May’s epitaph feels more businesslike:
My task accomplished and
The long day done
The weeping woman statue is the work of the Harrison Granite Company. A catalog it released in January 1918 pronounces its weeping women as, “Recommended for expressive beauty.”
They placed at least five of these statues in various U.S. cemeteries. The statues are very similar, though not completely identical.
According to an Oakland Cemetery blog post written by Richard Waterhouse, the statue represents Niobe, Queen of Thebes.
In Plato’s retelling (the oldest surviving version of the story), Niobe bragged that while she had borne 12 children, Leto (the goddess of motherhood) had only two.
Of course, Leto’s children were deities, Artemis and Apollo. Angered by Niobe’s hubris, the two promptly descended on Thebes and murdered all of Niobe’s children.
In Victorian cemeteries, Niobe is portrayed as the eternally grieving mother. The legend of this particular monument is that, on a full moon night, you can see tears streaming down her face. The wreath of laurel represents immortality, since laurel leaves never wilt or fade. Chiefly a symbol of victory, however, the wreath emanates a somber ambiguity when Niobe’s defeat is remembered.