In an act of solidarity with the movement to restore open-air cremation to Britain, spearheaded by the Natural Death Centre, we survey some inspirational historic examples.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Romantic poet, drowned in 1822. His yacht was wrecked in a storm in the Gulf of Spezzia, Italy. His body was cremated and his remains later buried at the Protestant cemetery in Rome.
Fournier’s painting shows the funeral pyre surrounded by three of the dead poet’s closest friends. From left to right they are the author and adventurer Trelawny and Shelley’s fellow-poets Leigh Hunt and Byron. In Trelawny’s own account of the event, ‘Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron’, he described the hot August day on which the funeral took place.
Fournier chose to ignore this aspect of the description. Instead he depicted the weather as grey and cold to accentuate the sombre and dramatic mood of the piece.” [Source]
Ed’s note: Not nearly enough wood. Little wonder that, after the flames had abated, Shelley’s heart was found undamaged amidst the ashes.