Heavy Heavy Hangs over Thy Head and more art by Rockwell Kent

Heavy Heavy Hangs over Thy Head, 1946
23 x 31 cm (h x w)
crayon lithograph on paper
not for sale
[Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Gift of the Des Moines Art Center Print Club; 2002.12]

(Gift Print, 2004)

A rat gnaws the cord suspending a flintlock musket over a baby who sleeps in a tiny bed by an open window overlooking an idyllic Appalachian Mountain landscape. Below the child—who seems as still as a marble sculpture on a tomb—are inscribed the words, “HEAVY HEAVY HANGS OVER THY HEAD.” Although Kent took these words from a traditional children’s game, he did not literally depict the way this game is played. He intended the print to be an allegory of the atom bomb. Although today the control and abolition of nuclear weapons is still of enormous concern, at this moment when the control of firearms is ardently debated in the United States, Kent’s lithograph of the gun about to fall on the sleeping baby speaks to us in a way other than what the artist originally intended. We cannot help but bring our memories and feelings about pervasive gun violence against children in our time.

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