Legion of Honor features "The Mourners"


The statues look like they are sharing grief by praying, reflecting, singing, and expressing devotion. "The Mourners" are mid-15th Century sculptures from the tombs of the Duke of Burgundy in Dijon, France.

"All of the figures represented here are replications of the different levels of society that would have participated in a funeral," said European art curator Lynn Orr.

They wear cloaks so that one level of society doesn't appear greater than another. Thirty-seven of them have brought their procession to the Legion Of Honor.

"They are carved from alabaster which has to appearance of marble but is much softer and it really allows for greater definition of detail," said Orr.

And they are just 16 inches tall. In real life the statues are on a colonnade at the base of the tomb. They are from the Musee des Beaux Arts in Dijon which is undergoing renovation. The Musee's director says almost everyone who visits the city has to see these statues because the Musee is in the former home of the duke. She says the mourners' role was pre-ordained in medieval France.

"It was intended the monks were praying for the dukes until the end of time. That's why was needed for the salvation of his soul," said director of Musee des Beaux Arts Sophie Jugie.

Funerals could be elaborate sometimes lasting for months and the exquisite detail of the monks really capture the emotion at the time.

At the tomb they are flush against the surface, but in this setting we can walk around them and perhaps appreciate the work even better up close.

"The Mourners" will be on display through the end of the year.

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