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Barren County High School, Glasgow, Kentucky

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1 Barren County High School, Glasgow, Kentucky
Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Chapter 9 The walls in Reverend Dimmesdale's room were adorned with tapestries depicting the story of King David and Bathsheba. Let's discover the irony behind this allusion to both the Bible and an intricate piece of art. Letitia Hughes Barren County High School, Glasgow, Kentucky

2 The David and Bathsheba Tapestries
This prestigious series of wall hangings is considered masterpieces of Renaissance tapestry-making. This exceptional series of ten tapestries depicts the adultery between King David of Israel and Bathsheba, followed by their punishment and contrition. It is one of the jewels in the collection of the National Museum of the Renaissance at the Castle of Ecouen in France. Probably acquired in 1528 by King Henry VII of England, this masterpiece of Flemish weaving dating back to the beginning of the 16th century was woven in the Brussels workshops of Pierre van Aelst, supplier to Charles V and Pope Leon X. It is one of the rare series of tapestries from this period that still has all of its wall hangings.

3 A woven tapestry from Brussels, depicting King David and Bathsheba
The tapestry, otherwise known as an Arras or Gobelins, after places of manufacture, is a handwoven wall hanging with a non-repetitive, pictorial pattern. The technique is based on weaving and picking in the threads from the reverse side. A tapestry of this kind is usually woven on a high-warp loom. National Musuem in Stockholm

4 Wedding guests at the wedding of King David and Bathsheba
Musician playing a cornetto

5 Wedding ceremony of King David and Bathsheba
Priest is standing behind the bride and groom.


7 Part of a Story of David tapestry at the Cluny Museum, the second in the set of ten. In this tapestry that is 4.52 metres by 8.16 Uriah summoned by King David returns from the army, receives from the hand of the King a message for Joab, and taking leave of his wife Bathsheba sets forth. The part of the tapestry reproduced on this page is the upper left corner and gives a view of David and Bathsheba behind the scenes.

8 Why are there very few pictures of the tapestry published?

9 Book on the tapestries written in French.

10 Psalm 32:1-5 Psalm 32 1 Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD "— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

11 Selah may be the most difficult word in Hebrew to translate
Selah may be the most difficult word in Hebrew to translate. Selah is probably either a musical mark or an instruction on the reading of the text, something like "stop and listen". The Psalms were sung accompanied by musical instruments and there are references to this in many chapters. Thirty-one of the thirty-nine psalms with the caption "To the choir-master" include "Selah" so the musical context of selah is obvious. Selah notes a break in the song and as such is similar in purpose to Amen in that it stresses the importance of the preceding passage. Alternatively, Selah may mean "forever". "Selah" is the name of a city from the time of David and Solomon. It is translated into today's general language with the meaning: think about it.

12 Formative Assessment:
Dimmesdale's apartment is hung with tapestries depicting the Biblical story of David and Bathsheba and Nathan the Prophet. King David commits adultery with Bathsheba; in order to obtain her for himself, David orders that Bathsheba’s husband,Uriah, be sent to certain death in battle. Nathan condemns the king's action harshly (2 Sam ). Why is it ironic that these scenes decorate Dimmesdale's rooms? What effect is the constant sight of them likely to have on the minister's sensibilities?

13 Answers: It is ironic that Dimmesdale, himself guilty of adultery, should live in an apartment decorated with tapestries depicting this sin and its condemnation. This daily reminder must certainly be an added source of pain to the guilt-stricken minister.

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