The New Deal-era mural the guy occupies, titled “Mr. Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield,” pre-dates the iPhone by seven decades. Completed in 1937 by the late Italian semi-abstract painter Umberto Romano, “Settling” is loosely based on actual events that occurred around a pre-Revolutionary War encounter between members of two prominent New England tribes, the Pocumtuc and Nipmuc, and English settlers at the village of Agawam in present-day Massachusetts in the 1630s, some 200 years before the advent of electricity.
In other words, what the man in the painting holds simply cannot be an iPhone.
It’s a question that keeps me coming back to Romano’s “Settling.” The man is found in the first of four mural panels that comprise the artist’s retelling of New England history, which falls under the care of the United States Postal Museum and currently hangs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Office Building in Springfield.