Sunday, August 5, 2018

2 Samuel 18: A Recycled Story.

Absalom's fate is foreshadowed in I Samuel 18:8. The fighting is taking place in the forest of Ephraim. The narrator comments that the forest claimed more victims than the fighting. Sure enough, Absalom's hair is caught in the branches of a tree, allowing Joab and his soldiers to overtake him.

Like many biblical stories (including this one), Absalom has been appropriated for circumstances far beyond David's life in Israel. The embroidery below sets Absalom, Joab and David in pre-Revolutionary America.
Faith Robinson Trumbull (attrib.). The Hanging of Absalom. c. 1770. Silk and metal thread on black satin. 
New London, CT: Lyman Allyn Art Museum.
Rather than being the caring-then-distraught father, David (symbolizing King George III) is here the unseeing king, sitting in his palace playing his harp with no regard for what the people outside the palace (in the colonies) are suffering. Absalom is in the middle of the composition, indeed caught by his hair, his feet off the ground. Joab, David's commander in the scripture story, is wearing the uniform of a British redcoat. Absalom is the patriot, rebelling against an unfeeling monarch. 

The piece is believed to have been created soon after the Boston Massacre. On March 5, 1770, a British soldier was attacked by a mob in Boston. What started as a street altercation ended with the death of five American colonists at the hands of British soldiers. The creator of the piece - or at least the one to whom it is attributed is Faith Robinson Trumbull, wife of Jonathan Trumbull (Colonial Governor of CT) and mother of artist John Trumbull. 
The images of Absalom hanging from a tree can be disturbing, especially in light of the racial terrorist practice of lynching. This week on Art&Faith Matters on Facebook: a link to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

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