MADISON, GA'S HISTORIC CEMETERIES
ROBERT EBERHARD LAUNITZ
by Patsy Harris, Buckhead, GA
Known as the “father of monumental art in America,” Robert Eberhard Launitz was born in 1806 in Riga, a port city in western Russia that would later be Latvia. His family chose a classical education and military career for Launitz, but his sculptor uncle took him to
Rome where they both studied under the internationally known Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.
Launitz arrived in New York in 1828, deaf, but speaking five languages other than
English. He worked his way to partnering with the renowned American marble-worker
John Frazee in New York, where he sculpted small works in marble. After completing
a series of bas-relief portraits, in 1845 he began work on his most famous large monuments with a marble statue of a 17-year-old girl whose death and poignant monument tweaked the public interest. Shortly after, the New York Fire Department commissioned
Launitz to sculpt a marble memorial to its fallen firefighters. “It was the first
large monument erected in a cemetery in the United States, and the first one
that paid tribute to an element of general human sympathy.”
He designed many extraordinary private and public monuments, including the
55-foot tall Pulaski monument in Savannah, GA; the 65-foot tall monument
commissioned by the state of Kentucky, dedicated to those who had “fallen in
defense of the country,” and placed in the Frankfort Cemetery. He also designed
a 8’ X 5.5’ stone of white marble installed in 1853 on the interior of the
Washington Monument in Washington, DC. Commissioned by New York City,
weighs about 8,000 pounds and is located at the 130-foot mark.
Launitz died in 1870 and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.
American Architect and Architecture, Volume 22. J. R. Osgood & Company, 1887, pp58-61,
107-109 Online at https://books.google.com/books?id=uArVAAAAMAAJ&q=launitz#v=snippet&
Corporation for the City of New York Monument photo (below). The Washington Monument
A Technical History and Catalog of the Commemorative Stones. The National Park Service. 2005
History of the Frankfort Cemetery. Lewis Franklin Johnson, Roberts Printing Company, 1921
Robert E. Launitz bas-relief photo (above right) by Bob Collins, findagrave.com/memorial/90550821
Stokes-McHenry Monument photo (right) by Joe Stoner, findagrave.com/memorial/62403632
The New York Times. 3/22/1853. Online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Eberhard_Launitz
Click here for a newspaper article we wrote
about Robert Launitz.