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August 22, 2003

Revolutionary allegory
Posted by Teresa at 09:53 PM *

This is The Hanging of Absalom, a needlework thought to have been created in the wake of the Boston Massacre of 1770. In it the Biblical story of Absalom’s rebellion against his father, King David, and Absalom’s death at the hands of Joab after he’s ridden under an oak tree, gotten his hair tangled in it, and been left hanging helplessly in mid-air (2 Samuel 18:9-14), are re-imagined in terms of revolutionary politics.

As the Library of Congress’ Religion and the American Revolution page explains it,
The creator of the work saw Absalom as a patriot, rebelling against and suffering from the arbitrary rule of his father King David (symbolizing George III). The king, shown at the top left, is playing his harp, evidently oblivious to the anguish of his children in the American colonies. The figure executing Absalom—David’s commander Joab in the Old Testament story—is dressed as a British red coat.
Comments on Revolutionary allegory:
#1 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2003, 11:31 PM:

That's a ... fascinating ... reuse of the story; a convenient use of symbols without any of the underlying tangle. (I reread much of Samual recently to go with singing Honegger's King David and I still haven't sorted out all the pieces.) Rather like the performance of Julius Caesar near the beginning of The Syndics, where the characters are made to look like figures from the Mob's revolution, making the play is a tortured analogy to current-to-the-story events.

If I believed in an afterlife (perhaps as envisioned by Parke Godwin) I'd love to look in on Kornbluth and Brunner vigorously (well, as vigorously as they ever did anything in life) arguing their differing concepts of the Mob/Mafia/CosaNostra/..., waving copies of The Syndic and The Shockwave Rider as they argue about the elephant behind them.

#2 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2003, 11:23 AM:

As a stitcher myself, I'm struck by how much the anonymous needleworker cared about her subject. The materials had to be imported; the time to create it would have been easier to come by, but it still must have taken her forever. The detail on my monitor isn't sharp enough to guess at what stitches she used, but it's probably mostly chain and stem, which take an age, especially in those huge boring swaths of grass. Satin (to stitch on) and silk (to stitch with) weren't cheap. Needles weren't either. (And if you lost one, O the frustration until you could get another!) I can see her sitting by the fireside of an evening, arguing with her husband about whether women would get the vote.

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