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The Faces of Stonecutter Daniel Farrington

Old Parish Cemetery’s Most Prolific Stonecutter

If you have ever walked through a colonial era graveyard, you will see rather foreboding winged skulls, death’s heads, and sometimes even crossbones carved in slate, a reminder that death was nothing to trifle with. By the mid- to late 18thcentury, however, gravestone art began to incorporate a sort of portraiture with the stones’ tympanum (or arch) depicting the faces of men, women, and children. Most of these effigies were not actually representative images of the deceased. Stones were often completed by the cutters when they had free time, and were purchased after a death had occurred. Other stones were commissioned long after a burial. Thus, the face on the stone was generic. There are numerous examples of this artwork in Old Parish Cemetery by several stonecutters, but Daniel Farrington was clearly the most prolific stone carver in the South Parish.

Born in 1733 in nearby Wrentham, Farrington was active in his home town, taking on the posts of fence viewer, constable, warden, and assessor. Although he had a long and productive career and carved a good number of stones, it was probably not enough to sustain a large family – he and his wife, had seven children – but what other occupation he may have taken up is not known. His workshop stood on South Street, today’s Rte. 1.

According to gravestone scholar Vincent Luti, Farrington’s personal style emerged around 1768-1770. He carved squint-eyed skulls, winged effigies, and round, doll-faced effigies with bold staring eyes. After 1772, his wing feathers have a shirred, bat-wing look to them. Farrington’s mature work displayed a sure hand, with elegant lettering as well as attractive effigies. For some thirty years, his work remained relatively the same. Daniel Farrington died in Wrentham in 1807.

Here is a selection of Farrington’s “Faces” at Old Parish Cemetery. He seemed to have been especially popular within the Everett and Fairbanks families.

Double click on image for expanded view

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