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October 29, 2017

Minerva Teichert, “They Who Had Taken Us Captive Require of Us a Song Psa. 137

Minerva Teichert (1888-1976), They Who Had Taken Us Captive Required of Us A Song, Psa. 137, 1939, oil on canvas, 83 1/4 x 60 5/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1946.

On this day in 539 B.C., King Cyrus of Persia conquered the ancient capitol of Babylon, freeing Jewish captives and allowing them to return home. Latter-day Saint artist Minerva Teichert pondered the Jewish captivity and here depicted them along the rivers of Babylon, prior to their release. Inspired by Psalm 137, Teichert shows them weeping as they remember Zion and, despite their sorrows, being asked to gather their harps and sing joyful songs of Zion. As viewers, we sympathize with their difficult situation but know that the Lord is with them and will orchestrate their freedom. Teichert deeply respected Jews, considering them another branch of the House of Israel along with members of her church. While studying in New York, she became friends with the wife of an influential Jewish rabbi. Additionally, Teichert felt ties to the Jewish people because of her son's mission to Germany and his descriptions of the repressed people. Teichert painted very few subjects other than Western and religious themes, however, this painting is one of two examples featuring with Jewish subjects, both painted in the late 1930s.