Andre Chabot

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The weeping “Angel Of Grief” that adorns Emelyn Story’s tomb in the Cimitero Acattolico in Rome is the work of her husband, American sculptor, poet, and art critic William W. Story. The son of Congressman and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, Willliam was a Harvard graduate who led a successful career as a Boston lawyer before leaving his practice to become a sculptor.

After his father’s death in 1845, William received a commission to create a memorial statue for the Justice, and went to Italy to study for the work. He completed the statue 1853. (It is now standing in the Story Chapel of the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.) After a brief return to the U.S., William eventually moved to Rome with his family for good.

William and his wife Emelyn lived a long and productive life in Rome, where their address at the Palazzo Barberini became a center for distinguished American and English writers, musicians and artists of the time. Two of William’s sons, Thomas Waldo and Julian Russell, went on to become accomplished artists. His daughter, Edith Marion, was a writer.

Henry James wrote about those days in his biography William Wetmore Story and His Friends. He quotes Story as saying, “She was my life, my joy, my stay and help in all things”. James described “the admirable efficacy” of Mrs. Story's presence in her husband's career, “a presence indefatigably active and pervasive, productive in a large measure of what was best and happiest in it”.

Emelyn Story died in 1895, at the age of 74, in Rome. William died later the same year. He was 78. They are buried together, next to the grave of their first son Joseph.

André Chabot was not aware of this story when he discovered this striking tomb. Aside from the remarkable monument, however, the inscription “Emelyn Story” fueled his imagination. The scene he fell upon, as if by chance, seemed to speak of a tragedy — of “Emelyn’s story” and her angel who wept. André created this installation using objects to relate this story as only he could have imagined it, creating a play on words between a fictitious “story” inspired by the setting, and the name inscribed on the tomb.

Story’s “Angel of Grief” has been replicated on many monuments throughout the globe: Cuba, Portugal, Mexico, and Luxemburg, to name a few. And André Chabot has visited each one. His theory is that angels are in short supply, and that these angels are actually one and the same, traveling at a speed faster than light to grace tombs around the world. Stranger still, as he was leaning against one of them, in San Francisco, he felt it move. Undoubtedly the angels do not like having their secrets revealed...

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