Daniel Vifian López – “The Funeral Appearance Has Almost Vanished”: A Study on the Ever Changing Aspect of the General Cemetary of Lima (1849 ca. 1870)

Figure 1: Daniel Giannoni, Cemetery view, 2000s.
Figure 2: Unknown photographer, Entrance to the General Cemetery of Lima, 1870s, Albumen . © Collection C. Carra, Adoc-Photos.

The funereal landscape took by the lens of Daniel Giannoni two decades ago [Figure 1], shows a good glance of the bodily experience any visitor c an have by walking amid the General Cemetery of Lima (known as of 1923 as Presbyter Matías Maestro Cemetery): it is a labyrinth of agglomerated mausolea and colu mbarium walls. Old marble statues can be discovered hidden behind a larger, newer construction erected there as if it had conquered the visual space for itself. Although the aspect of the cemetery was not always so disordered , the cemeterial space was in f act always contested. The following case can illustrate this.

The one year old infant, Carmen Florencia Luisa Francisca Loli, died on March 30, 1870, 62 years after the inauguration of the extra moenia General Cemetery of Lima. Since 1851 Limenean upper class found in the cemeterial empty plots a way to express their own social pretensions through the erection of sculptural tombs commonly known as mausolea. The mortuary city started to be rapidly populated by marble allegories and angels, as well as funerary architecture . Even though the spaces with best visibility were being progressively occupied, by 1870 the column of Carmen Loli could find a more than proper location in the left garden at the outer patio of the General Cemetery of Lima Being able to be appreciated from the outside as seen in a contemporary photograph [Figure 2], it managed to occupy one of the most privileged places. Nevertheless, nowadays is the Buenaventura Seoane’s funerary monument the one which can be found on that location, whilst the one of Carmen Loli has been moved to the front garden, with a symmetrical arrangement between them, almost as if in an antithetical position. Although Buenaventura Seoane died before the Carmen Loli, on March 15, 1870, his tomb does only appear there in 1871, 1871,1 replacing that of the infant.

At the heart of this case lies a twofold criterion of action: firstly, that the aspect of the cemetery was malleable and susceptible to being set in motion by means of the objects existing in it as a consequence of the fact that, secondly, the placement of a sculptural tomb was an act of social distinction. Even if the reason behind changing the above mentioned tombs’ location is not clear, this movement had to first be negotiated between the cemetery’s personnel who would rule on the availability of proper plots for each sculptural tomb, and the relatives requiring and buying the above mentioned spots that were among the most visible and desired. Within legal capabilities, all objects inside the cemetery were contingent.

In the light of this procedure, the physical emptiness of the future burial plot was seen as a stage to display a social projection of the living world. Among the cemeterial terrain’s affordanc es a concept coined by James Gibson for possible actions that the environment’s properties offer the humans to carry out 2 their visual capabilities, i.e. their commercial offer for placing an object to be publicly seen, are most longed for; but they are not exhausted there: they invite relatives, friends, or visitors to take care of the place once it is inhabit ed by the dead . The terrain’s value wa s based on the relational aspect that could be built on it. Therefore, the growth of the mortuary population across time forced the cemetery’s constant renovation, constructing more columbarium wall sniches and preparation of the field for the erection of new fun erary monuments.

In terms of periodification, the General Cemetery of Lima was built in 1808, and, as it was mentioned above, it was only in 1851 the first three mausolea were erected. The next temporary milestone occurred in 1870 with the first land expansion was conducted.
A hiatus occurred in the old section, then, as burials took place only in the new space for about a decade, with very few exceptions. Therefore, the temporal limit proposed for this investigation lies in 1870. In the years after, and back to Daniel Giannoni’s photograph [Figure 1], it shows part of the results of a densifying growth that surpassed the administration of the cemet ery It probably started to develop during the decade s of 1880 and 1890, when the privileged plots with the best visibility begun to be scarce.

This investigation posits a chronology of the mausolea, while paying special attention to the internal social dynamics above discussed. The variable of time is required and necessary because, otherwise, all mausolea, being then imported mostly from Italy, would have remained no more than curious and peripheral copies of a more original and organic European artistic impulse. The sudden appearance of these funerary works in Limenean ground was only possible thanks to the Peruvian liberal market reforms implemented since 1845-1846 in the context of the guano age state’s fiscal bonanza. Overall, each of these pieces of sumptuous merchandise was used as an opportunity to
stage mourning on a larger scale by means of utilizing and reinventing the cemeterial architecture aspect. An emphasis on the beautification of the General Cemetery of Lima was rapidly developed in the literary sources at the expense of the funereal meditation that originally accompanied the foundation of this mortuary establishment: “The funereal appearance […] has almost vanished”, can be read in a 1872 newspaper. Materially and discursively, the space was transformed into a comfortable one for bourgeois socialization.

Daniel Vifian López holds a master’s degree in Latin American Studies (Major) and Art History (Minor) from the University of Bern , Switzerland (2017-2020) and a bachelors degree in Art History from the National Major University of San Marcos, Lima Peru (2007-2011). His research focused on 19th century public art, specifically sculptural monuments, both state funded and privately commissioned.
He co edited the open access academic journal Kaypunku, Revista de Estudios Interdisciplinarios de Arte y Cultura specializing in art history, during the years of 2015 and 2016. Currently he serves as research assistant for the interregional project “Entre el adorno y el decoro en las iglesias de Buenos Aires, Lima y Santiago, siglos XVIII y XIX”, conducted by the Adolfo Ibañez University, Santiago de Chile.

Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
Academies Editorial Board (2024, 4. März). Daniel Vifian López – “The Funeral Appearance Has Almost Vanished”: A Study on the Ever Changing Aspect of the General Cemetary of Lima (1849 ca. 1870). TRANSREGIONAL ACADEMIES. Abgerufen am 21. Mai 2024, von https://doi.org/10.58079/vy7b

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