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Painting discovered in twp. mausoleum

by CJ Carnacchio

April 06, 2011

This unfinished oil painting of a boy was found in Oxford Township’s 117-year-old mausoleum. It’s believed to be from around 1900. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn got the surprise of his life last week when he entered an old mausoluem and discovered something quite unusual.

"We walked in, I turned around and there it was two blue eyes staring at us," he said.

The two blue eyes were part on an unfinished oil painting of a young boy. The painting was sitting on one of the crumbling shelves inside the mausoleum, located in the township-owned cemetery on the north side of W. Burdick St.

Built in 1894, the mausoleum's exterior has deteriorated to the point where the township is seeking bids from contractors to repair it and prevent any further damage.

Dunn was visiting the historic structure with Clerk Curtis Wright, Lake Orion architect Stephen Auger and some potential bidders when they discovered the portrait.

It's unknown who the little boy is or why the painting was placed there. How long the portrait's been inside the mausoleum is also a mystery. The unfinished painting contains no names, signatures or dates.

"You wonder if a child died and a grieving parent left it there," Dunn said. "It makes you feel a lot of sympathy."

An Oxford resident, who used to work for art galleries and restore oil paintings, estimated the portrait was done sometime around 1900.

"You can tell by the style of the sketch work and the nails used on the canvas. The nails were forged by hand, not made in a factory," said this resident, who did not wish to be identified.

This resident agreed with Dunn's speculation as to why the painting was inside the mausoleum.

"The child probably died while the painting was being done and the parents couldn't stand it. They didn't want it destroyed, but they also couldn't live with it or finish it."

No remains are stored in the mausoleum.

Dunn believes the structure was once used to temporarily store bodies during the winter until they could be properly buried in the spring when the ground thawed.