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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Grief: 1915

Grief: 1915

Washington, D.C., circa 1915. "Grief monument, Rock Creek cemetery." Augustus Saint-Gaudens's ambiguously enigmatic bronze memorializing Clover Adams, the society hostess whose suicide led to its commission by her husband, the writer Henry Adams. National Photo Co. Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Wow, I absolutely love this.

And thanks to JennyPennifer for "taphophile." I always knew I was one, just didn't know the name for it.


Being a taphophile, I of course love this and want to photograph it myownself. Maybe someday.

We've met.

This statue gave me the heeby jeebies when I first saw it. I just happened to be riding through the cemetary. But I knew some great artist created it.

Give Me Good Directions

While in Washington for the Inauguration, I drove all over the cemetery looking for this monument, which I first learned of in reading Gore Vidal's Empire. I became a fan of John Hay, which led me to the other eponymous half of the Hay-Adams House, Henry Adams and his dynamos.

I would very much appreciate specific directions once inside the cemetery. Thank you. Jeff Noble

[Click here. - Dave]

Twelfth Night Shakespeare

"A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?"

That's what comes to mind when I see this statue.

Lived with her (?) for 20 years.

My Father was Superintendent of Rock Creek Cemetery and my family lived in a house within the gates. I can't count the times I've looked at this statue and wondered about the meaning of it.


Good heavens what a stunning work and remarkable bit of photography! I've been gazing at her at every opportunity for a day now, and have more questions about what she says now than I did yesterday. Is she still there?

[Yes. - Dave]

A Baltimore Legend

A copy of this statue became the infamous "Black Aggie" here in Baltimore.


I have lurked in the background for many months, but must break my silence to comment that this is one of best from an incredible collection. It is haunting in many ways, but does speak volumes to the soul of this observer. Thank you Shorpy for all that you bring to the light of those who appreciate the world of photography and the representated life from the past.


Saint-Gaudens's name for the bronze figure is The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding, but the public commonly called it Grief—an appellation that Henry Adams apparently disliked. In a letter addressed to Homer Saint-Gaudens, on January 24, 1908, Adams instructed him:

"Do not allow the world to tag my figure with a name! Every magazine writer wants to label it as some American patent medicine for popular consumption—Grief, Despair, Pear's Soap, or Macy's Men's Suits Made to Measure. Your father meant it to ask a question, not to give an answer; and the man who answers will be damned to eternity like the men who answered the Sphinx." -- Wikipedia

I remember studying this in college and the ambiguity of the figure sent critics of the time into a tizzy. The lesson ultimately learned was the critics filled in the blanks with their own personal baggage and interpreted the meaning incorrectly.

What's In Your Wallet?


The Education of Henry Adams

In his famous autobiography, Henry Adams doesn't mention his wife at all, but he does talk about this statue without identifying its purpose.

Roosevelt tie

In her first stay in Washington (when her husband was Assistant Secretary of the Navy), Eleanor Roosevelt would spend hours meditating on this spot. Joseph Lash wrote in "Eleanor and Franklin" that she envied the peace reflected in the tranquil face of the statue.


Oh, but this is beautiful -- and the ambiguity works, too -- don't know if it was Henry or Clover of the personification of grief itself.

I know this is sad but....

it kind of creeps me out!

Pop Quiz

This monument made it into the history books, I believe I had to memorize a slide with it!

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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