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AfterLife Posts

015. cloudy skies

Although the cemetery really shines on a pleasant day, don’t let ominous weather postpone a visit. In fact, cloudy skies add a special touch… it is a cemetery after all:

Cloudy sky panorama, Recoleta Cemetery

Coming storm, Recoleta Cemetery

Sometimes the sky itself can be just as interesting. Darken the foreground to add a little spookiness:

Cloudy sky panorama, Recoleta Cemetery

Cloudy days are wonderful for photographers since direct light washes out a lot of detail in this sea of concrete, granite & marble. Set your camera on black & white mode for better shots if you can’t return another day.

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014. aerial view, etoile hotel

The Etoile Hotel is one of the few places in Buenos Aires with views that look directly over Recoleta Cemetery… a great place to stay for the taphophile in all of us.

I used to recommend going to the 14th floor, ordering a drink from the bar & stepping out on the balcony for some wonderful pics. Unfortunately it seems that they’ve caught on. Non-guests can no longer sneak in for a nice view, but if you want to pay for a room this view can be yours:

Aerial view from Etoile Hotel

Aerial view from Etoile Hotel

Aerial view from Etoile Hotel

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013. inverted torches

Inverted torch, Recoleta Cemetery

Inverted torch, Recoleta Cemetery

Inverted torch, Recoleta Cemetery

Inverted torch, Recoleta Cemetery

Life is often represented in religious art as a flame—a source of illumination & warmth. An eternal flame takes this notion one step further. But sooner or later all flames burn out. Turning a torch upside down will extinguish the flame due to lack of oxygen & is a poignant way of representing death.

Inverted torches are one of the most common symbols in cemeteries worldwide. Whether in pairs, crossed or standing alone, they remind us that someone’s flame has gone out.

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012. familia de elías romero

Elías Romero, Recoleta Cemetery

A low but spacious mausoleum near the rear wall of the cemetery contains one of the first big business families in Argentina. Dr. Elías Romero opened the Tienda San Miguel on the corner of Bartolomé Mitre & Suipacha in 1857, & the elite of Buenos Aires flocked to the new locale. Purveyors of carpets, curtains & all types of cloth-related goods, customers could take one square meter of fabric home with them to see how it would look… & according to the owners, all sample swatches were returned.

The department store was renovated in 1920 by local Art Nouveau architect, Julián García Núñez, who covered the façade with marble & installed a stained glass ceiling with an image of San Miguel killing a demon. The department store is closed these days, & it’s difficult to get a peek of the interior since the building is only rented out for special events. At least it’s still around:

Tienda San Miguel, Julián García Núñez

The following plaque reads: “To Sir Elías Romero Marull, tribute & remembrance from the staff of the Tienda San Miguel on the first anniversary of his death, 29 June 1947.” The store is depicted as is Saint Michael in the heavens just above:

Elías Romero, Recoleta Cemetery

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011. eduardo orfali ◊

Eduardo Orfali, Recoleta Cemetery

Inside this small tomb is a beautiful sculpture from Milan, placed on the floor along the back wall. Stoop down to get a better view of the marble masterpiece, & note the embroidery of mom’s evening gown, her slightly fallen breasts, & the detail of the mattress. The structure originally belonged to the Viviani-Rossi family (according to Buenos Aires Nos Cuenta #13) who obviously had a lot of money & very good taste.

Update (08 Feb 2012): Not sure where Buenos Aires Nos Cuenta obtained their info, but a recent series of photos published online puts them in doubt. An extensive amount of the Witcomb Collection, taken at the end of the 19th & beginning of the 20th century, is now available. Photo #372 shows the statue in the same location as today but as part of a larger mausoleum belonging to C.A. Cranwell. Note that the large tomb directly behind is where Rufina Cambacérès is located today:

Eduardo Orfali, Cranwell, Colección Witcomb

This south-facing sculpture is best viewed in late afternoon when the setting sun reaches inside. Large glass panels make flash photography awkward, so natural light is the best option.

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