The Death of Major Peirson
Tony Morling explores Jersey's most iconic image and its role today
- Tags: Christianity | Diversity | History | Jersey | National Identity | Nationality | Society | Theology | Violence | War
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As a panelist at the controversial Forum debate 'How Should Jersey Respond to the European Migrant Crisis?' Tony Morling, Minister at St Helier Methodist Centre, drew the attention of the agitated audience to a familiar image hanging on one of the walls of the Town Hall assembly room.
The image, depicting the a scene in the Royal Square during the Battle of Jersey in 1781 was a copy of the famous painting by John Singleton Copley The Death of Major Peirson. As Tony pointed to the painting and began to talk about the nationality and background of some of its most prominent figures a sudden and striking silence fell over the audience. In a debate about Jersey's national identity and its future relationship with migrant communities Tony's statements about the diverse and heterogeneous cultural and national origins of some of the paintings most heroic figures struck a highly pertinent note.
At this CHOW session Tony will share more of his research into this fascinating and significant work of art.
Here is Tony's compelling introduction to the session:
'The 1781 Battle of Jersey is commemorated in the picture by John Singleton Copley entitled The Death of Major Peirson. It hangs in the Tate Gallery in London, there is a copy in the Royal Court and it has appeared on Jersey bank notes. It is one of the most recognisable and enduring images of Jersey identity. But how do we begin to understand a picture that is so familiar?
Tony will offer a tool of hermeneutics which he picked up 30 years ago to interpret written texts and one that he has found equally useful when looking at pictures, an artifact or film. With copies of the painting on each table the session will then explore the subliminal messages of 18th century power and politics and their relevance for today.
The session will close by visiting the graves of the two adversaries Major Peirson and Baron de Rullecourt which are situated a few yards from Church House.'