Monday, September 28, 2009

Remembering Sir Henry Fryer

click photos to enlarge
There are some people in this world, a relatively small group, often with more money than they know what to do with, for whom the prospect of death is a great inconvenience, because for them "shuffling off this mortal coil" means an end to their significance. Such people, and they have always existed, use their money to seek ways of extending their presence on earth. Whilst many are happy to do this through their offspring others require pyramids, palaces, terra cotta armies, massive mausoleums, foundations named after themselves, cryopreservation or the status of notable author. Through such things they imagine that their importance (often self-importance) will continue to make itself felt down the ages.

I came across an example of this the other day in the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Harlton, Cambridgeshire. On the south side of the chancel is an alabaster memorial to Sir Henry Fryer who died in 1631. This massive, opulent edifice fills the space between two south aisle windows, and features classical detailing - a pediment, a coffered arch, weeping caryatids, allegorical figures, etc - that frame four large, portrait figures. Kneeling in pious poses, are Sir Henry (in armour), flanked by his parents. Below, reclining in what to modern sensibilities looks like a casual, bored, almost devil-may-care way, is Bridget Fryer, who survived her husband.

The piece is a fascinating source of the art, design and fashion of its time, but also an interesting attempt at making one's presence continue after death. I see a lot of memorials in my tours of churches, but every now and then one jumps out as much more egocentric than usual. In this example, whilst the figures adopt the pose of devout believers in the Christian faith, everything else about the memorial screams pride (one of the seven deadly sins) and vanity. In terms of this small corner of England, and this church in particular, the memorial has achieved its purpose - up to a point. But what about in the wider world: how effectively did Sir Henry Fryer keep his importance alive? When I Googled his name I got one solitary "hit" with information about this memorial! Hardly a massive impact on posterity. But, after this blog post, Google will be returning at least two hits!

photographs & text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo2)
Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/160 (1/100)
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On