Rembrandt: Belshazzar’s Feast (circa 1635-1638)
“Belshazzar’s Feast is described in the Book of Daniel.” The Wikipedia article, Belshazzar’s Feast, gives only the barest outline of the story: “Babylonian king Belshazzar profanes the sacred vessels of the enslaved Israelites. As prophesied by the writing on the wall, and interpreted by Daniel, Belshazzar is killed and Darius the Mede succeeds to his kingdom.” But the article does include a comprehensive list of the many works of art and music which depict the story.
Wikipedia’s overarching article Belshazzar gives more detail, but you might also want to read Wikipedia: The writing on the wall, which explains that “As those at the feast profaned the sacred vessels pillaged from the Jerusalem Temple, a disembodied hand appeared and wrote on the palace wall the words, ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin’. The visionary Daniel was summoned and interpreted this message as the imminent end for the Babylonian kingdom.”
The Babylonian ruler (co-regent with Nabonidus, his father) is killed and his kingdom goes to Darius the Mede … and the Israelites remain in captivity. The Jewish Encyclopedia provides details of the sacrilegious ruler’s death.
The phrase, “the writing is on the wall” and its variants have passed into common usage – usually indicating awareness of some imminent and/or inevitable stroke of fate.
I find the Belshazzar’s Feast narrative interesting in terms of its structure. Would it occur to the wealthy – feasting in plush restaurants while their gated fortresses and garage doors are bombed by taggers – that they, like Belshazzar, are receiving messages from the Hand of God? Probably not. By the way, there is an interesting twist: it is the feast itself – and not the writing on the wall – which constitutes the act of desecration.
The images presented below were captured on 25 April 2014. Three shots of the same tag, they do not pretend to the divine; on the contrary, they endeavour to do nothing more than deconstruct an inter-textual artefact – emptying out the conflictual aspect of the tagger’s having defaced a wall previously painted to advertise and promote Orchestra Wellington and suggesting instead a new set of “artistic” values.
on the wall #01 (25 April 2014)
on the wall #02 (25 April 2014)
on the wall #03 (25 April 2014)