By Ruth Ellen Gruber
I’m posting this wonderful picture that Sergey Kravstov sent me of a tombstone carver in his shop in the town of Volodymyr-Volyn’skyi, Ukraine (known in Yiddish as Ludmir), in the Autumn of 1916 (the date is known from the date on the tombstone in the picture, which is assumed to have been carved — and painted — within the month after the funeral). The photo is from a glass negative held in the Bildarchiv (picture archive) of the National Library in Vienna.
The town is just inside today’s Ukraine near the Polish border, between Zamosc in Poland and Lutsk, Ukraine. At the time the picture was taken, about 6,000 Jews lived in the town.
If the finished stone show in any indication, this carver’s work was very simple — uh, minimalist? — and in no way approached the splendid sculptural style of past centuries. But — the picture clearly shows how the tombstone was painted. As seen below, this practice is still alive in Ukraine — in this picture, in the village of Sharhorod. (See comments to this post for a discussion of the methodology of painting and tombstones.)