Three headless cherubs

Three headless cherubs

At first sight the carved details seem  well preserved so you may need to look carefully to notice that the winged cherubs have somehow lost their heads while guarding this magnificent tomb in Glasgow’s Victorian cemetery, the Necropolis.

Lovers of Green Men will see three stylized examples under the cherubs’ feet, their beards falling decoratively over the stonework.

The Glasgow Necropolis overlooks the city from a hillside and is full of architectural details and styles of decoration, so is well worth a visit if you enjoy stonework or church design (it’s opposite St Mungo’s Cathedral with its wonderful stained glass).

I took a few more pictures, but didn’t think they fit this particular prompt.

See other submissions to the weekly photo challenge here and check out my earlier Oops! post if you missed it.


A question from a thoughtful reader, Oneta Hayes, (see below) inspired me to find out more. After a little fruitless searching, I remembered the monument was also decorated with comedy and tragedy masks, which was enough to track it down. The picture shows a detail from a large monument by Alexander Handyside Ritchie to John Henry Alexander who died in 1851. The National Galleries of Scotland have more information on their website. I also found a transcription of a lengthy (and, for me fascinating) obituary from the Glasgow Herald, on the Memento Mori website (you’ll need to scroll down a little to see it). The obituary is illuminating not only on the life of John Henry Alexandra, but also on the times and social attitudes of his day. It also touches on a perennial quandary for the arts: the relationship between commerciality and fine art.

12 Replies to “Three headless cherubs”

    1. You may be right but you can’t see from the picture that this section is quite high up. At the time I thought that the heads had just weathered away – perhaps the necks were too slender? – but I’m just guessing.

  1. Such gorgeous, detailed carvings. I love the row of florals near the top. I wonder how they were mathematically able to do such things and meet in perfect circle. Such tecnique. Do you know when this was built? It seems that there would be folk lore about the missing heads. Do you know of any? Very interesting post. Thanks.

    1. There were lots of designs that reminded me of wallpaper borders! Your questions inspired me to search to see if I could discover more and I’m adding a link on to the actual post for others who have the same question. It’s a detail from a very impressive monument to a theatre owner, John Henry Alexander who died in 1851. I haven’t found any mythology to explain the missing heads but there is a tragic story connected with his death as you’ll see from the link.

      1. Oh, thank you for doing such interesting research. An interesting life. I found it funny that he could not style this as a theatre so he called it a “Dominion of Fancy.” Sounds like lots of red tape in those days also. Too bad about the fire – sixty-five people. The writer indicates the emotional pain from that might have contributed to his relatively early death at fifty-five. Thanks again for finding more “story” for me.

    1. I also took a picture of a sorrowful lady with part of her face missing but decided the idea of Oops wouldn’t stretch nearly that far – she looked so sad it would have been an affront.

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