Located at the highest point of the Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, New York, Erastus Dow Palmer's heroic marble sculpture, The Angel At The Sepulchre has long been one of this historic cemetery's masterpieces of funerary art.

Completed in Palmer's Albany studio on April 29, 1869, the Angel was commissioned by Robert Lenox Banks to mark the grave of his wife, Emma Rathbone Turner who died on December 4, 1866 at the age of thirty-one.

An acquaintance of the sculptor was among a group who viewed the Angel as an early work in progress in Palmer's Albany studio and wrote of his initial reaction:

"Being of the favored few who saw this in the clay, time can never efface the impressions produced by that first view, while it was yet in an early stage of progress. Towards evening we went into the studio with the sculptor, who carried a lighted candle, and as we entered we saw before and above us in the dim uncertain light, an imperfectly defined form of angelic strength and loveliness, which seemed gazing with unlimited vision, far away into infinity, and behind it darkness and shadow, as of the unknown tomb. As we stood awe-struck and speechless, the statute seemed to live, the breast to heave, the face to be distinct with heavenly intelligence, and we waited, fairly expecting from the lips the imperishable inquiry, 'Why seek ye the living among the dead?'"

Featured in various books about the Cemetery, as well as postcards and in William Kennedy's novel The Flaming Corsage, the Angel has kept a silent, but powerful vigil in the Cemetery as the elements have blurred its finely carved features.

The original plaster cast of the Angel is the majestic centerpiece of the Nineteenth-Century American Sculpture exhibit at the Albany Institute of History & Art.


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