The memory of the illustrious dead cannot be honoured enough. Their fame is, for the country which saw them born, a whole heritage of glory, which is added to that moral heritage which one generation must bequeath to the next only after having enriched and increased it.
This is why the cult of the dead has created among all peoples a variety of architecture and art that deserves to be studied, or rather there is no resource of art or talent, in their various manifestations, that has not been called upon to adorn the tombs of great men.
The cemeteries of our cities are thus strewn with monuments which are often very remarkable, and I do not mention those which have been erected in profusion in churches, in cloisters and in monasteries.
The originality of each people is marked and imprinted in these monuments. Thus the tombs of Westminster, especially the most recent ones, which have been built since the Reformation, bear no resemblance to the tombs of Catholic Spain, those which can be admired in the cathedrals of Burgos and Toledo, and especially in the Cartuja de Miraflores. Other beliefs, other ideas, other customs have invented and imposed another style.
The tomb of William Mulready, of which a reproduction in terracotta has been exhibited, is distinguished by its extreme simplicity and the greatest sobriety of accessory ornaments. This is very Protestant.
Mulready, draped in his coat, is lying on a cot covered with a mat. This mat is raised and folded into a cushion under the head of the dead man, who smiles and seems to be still alive, perhaps a little too much so, and lies between two laurel wreaths.
This face, framed in sideburns cut at the bottom of the cheeks, has all the signs of English types, as we know them, that is to say, a certain bonhomie which does not exclude, however, a certain stiffness and that native finesse of the well-born islander and gentleman.
The artist's hand holds a brush, the weapon he has used in this world and which has won him his reputation and his fortune.
Six columns rise above the statue and support the entablature of the small building. Branches of laurel, bundles of brushes, pencils and feathers, a palette, etc., are sculpted at the bottom of each of these small columns. But the bas-reliefs are not more significant, but more personal, and they do not allow one to hesitate in looking for the name of the dead. They are Mulready's most famous paintings, marked and drawn with a line, and arranged side by side around the monument.
In short, this unpretentious tomb is touching, and in this absence of any kind of luxury, there is a superior eloquence that will be felt by hearts worthy of understanding.
And now a word about Mulready.
He was of an Irish family and was born in 1786. He was admitted, at about the age of fourteen, to the Royal Academy; then he knew Banks, whose advice and friendship directed his first steps in his chosen path. For a long time, however, he produced only mediocre and little noticed works. He was looking for his way. He finally found it, and, taking his models from the Dutch painters, he excelled, like them, in painting episodes of common life. The Carpenter's Shop, The Rolling Inn, The Wolf and the Lamb (a real gem!), The Choice of a Wedding Dress, etc., attracted attention to him, and the attention never left him. Mulready's compositions at the French Exhibition of 1855 were received by the public with special attention. He was popular among us from the first days, and surely nothing is more legitimate than the fame he enjoys in England.
William Mulready died in July 1863.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée