Symbolism Sunday, The Willow

September 19, 2010

Oh no! Another Sunday! Well, fear not, this one is really easy.

My friends, if you’ve never seen a weeping willow on a mourning piece, then you may want to start another hobby.

The weeping willow is heavily symbolic of grief, sorrow and mourning, even physically, it stands as an analogy to human grief, with its back bent over the subject, be it a weeping figure, a tomb, plinth or any other mourning subject.

One of the better descriptions of the weeping willow comes from 2020site.org and this marvellous excerpt:

“Though the Weeping Willow is commonly planted in burial grounds both in China and in Turkey, its tearful symbolism has been mainly recognized in modern times, and among Christian peoples. As has been well said: “The Cypress was long considered as the appropriate ornament of the cemetery; but its gloomy shade among the tombs, and its thick, heavy foliage of the darkest green, inspire only depressing thoughts, and present death under its most appalling image, whilst the Weeping Willow, on the contrary, rather conveys a picture of the grief felt for the loss of the departed than of the darkness of the grave. Its light and elegant foliage flows like the disheveled hair and graceful drapery of a sculptured mourner over a sepulchral urn, and conveys those soothing, though melancholy reflections…”

So, where can one find this in jewellery? Quite commonly, it became one of the most used symbols of the Neoclassical period, so look for it on miniatures set into bracelets, pendants, etc and to a lesser extent was used in the 19th century. It can still be found in cemeteries and on peripheral funeralia today.

Examples of the willow in jewellery:

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777

Spotlight On: 1788 Sarah Honlett Brooch

Spotlight On: Mourning Miniature

As a treat for those of you who watched The Collectors on Friday night (and as a thank you to the international readers who couldn’t), we’ve got a long week ahead, as Art of Mourning is going back to daily posts for the week and I’ll be discussing some very unusual and beautiful pieces.

Had enough? Ok, you’re free to go enjoy your day!

5 Responses to “Symbolism Sunday, The Willow”


  1. […] > Symbolism Sunday, The Urn > Symbolism Sunday, The Willow […]


  2. […] broken glass at the back, but I don’t think you’ll complain once you see the sepia front with willow and […]


  3. […] Reading > Symbolism Sunday, The Willow > Symbolism Sunday, The Cypress > Symbolism Sunday, The Woman 0.000000 0.000000 […]


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