Mr. Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield: a baffling lesson from art history

Umberto Romano (1905-1982)

Mr. Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield is the name of a mural painted at the Post Office in Springfield, Massachusetts. This mural was painted by Umberto Romano in 1933. Note the date. Time is important to this article. Umberto Romano was supposedly born in Bracigliano Italy in 1905 and moved to the United States at the age of 9. He was then raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. His self-portrait is shown right. The mural is supposed to depict the arrival in 1636 of William Pynchon, an English colonist, later known as the founder of Springfield, Massachusetts.

The reason I’m having a bit of fun with my blog and sharing this 1933 mural is the fact that the Native American shown in the lower right center appears to be holding an iPhone. And not just holding it, but doing so properly with the typical distracted gaze in his eyes that we all seem to adopt these days. Brian Anderson, Do We All See the Man Holding an iPhone in This 1937 Painting? (Motherboard, 8/24/17). Here let me focus in on it for you and you will see what I mean. Also click on the full image above and enlarge the image. Very freaky. That is undeniable.

Ok, so how did that happen? Coincidence? There is no indication of vandalism or fraud. The mural was not later touched up to add an iPhone. This is what this Romano character painted in 1933. Until very recently everyone just assumed the Indian with the elaborate goatee was looking at some kind of oddly shaped hand mirror. This was a popular item of trade in the time depicted, 1636. Not until very recently did it become obvious that he was handling an iPhone. Looks like a large version 6.1 to me. I can imagine the first people waiting in line at the Post Office in Springfield who noticed this oddity while looking at their own iPhone.

The folks who like to believe in time travel now offer this mural as Exhibit “A” to support their far-out theories. Also see: Green10 Most Compelling Pieces Of Evidence That May Prove Time Travel Exists (YouTube, 7-3-16). 

I do not know about that, but I do know that if time travel is possible, and some physicists seem to think it is, then this is not the kind of thing that should be allowed. Please add this to the list of things that no superintelligent being, either natural or artificial, but especially artificial, should be allowed to do. Same goes for screen writers. I for one cannot tolerate yet another naked Terminator or whatever traveling back in time.

But seriously, just because you are smart enough to know how to do something does not mean that you should. Time travel is one of those things. It should not be allowed, well, at least, not without a lot of care and attention to detail so as not to change anything. Legal regulations should address time travel. Build that into the DNA of AI before they leap into superintelligence. At least require all traces of time travel to be erased. No more painting iPhones into murals from the 1930s. Do not awaken the batteries, I mean the people, from their consensus trance with hints like that.

So that is my tie-in to AI Ethics. I am still looking for a link to e-discovery, other than to say, if you look hard enough and keep an open mind, you can find inexplicable things everyday. Kind of like many large organizations’ ESI preservation mysteries. Where did that other sock go?

So what is your take on Umberto Romano‘s little practical joke? Note he also put a witch flying on a broomstick in the Mr. Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield mural and many other odd and bizarre things. He was known as an abstract expressionist. Another of his self-portraits is shown right, titled “Psyche and the Sculptor.” (His shirt does look like one of those new skin tight men’s compression shirts, but perhaps I am getting carried away. Say, what is in his right hand?) Romano’s work is included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Fogg Art Museum in Boston and the Corcoran Gallery and Smithsonian Institution in Washington. In discussing Mr. Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield the Smithsonian explains that “The mural is a mosaic of images, rather than depicting one specific incident at a set point in time.” Not set in time, indeed.

One more thing – doesn’t this reclining nude by Umberto Romano look like a woman watching Netflicks on her iPad? I like the stand she has her iPad on. Almost bought one like it last week.


Some of Romano’s other works you might like are:

These are his titles, not mine. Not too subtle was he? There is still an active market for Romano’s work.


7 Responses to Mr. Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield: a baffling lesson from art history

  1. Ralph – This was NOT a iPhone nor any other telephone. Despite what Dr. Ron Mallet is doing at UCONN today, time travel is “not a thing”. It’s just a Hollywood inspired fantasy.

    What Umberto was depicting, in his highly distorted artwork, was Pychon bring 18 (each) of different items he knew the Pocomtucs (aka Nipmucs) at Agawam MA would like to trade for land rights to Agawam (Springfield) area. One of those categories of items were iron axes or hatchet heads. The Pocomtucs were accustomed to stone ‘higganums’ or stone hatchet heads NOT iron. So Umberto thought the native brave would be enamored with holding one in his hand staring at it (a rectangular piece of iron) inside of a coffin (or box) also loaded with jugs of rum.The coffin is just a philosophical artifact of Umberto’s mind as to the death of the Native Americans due to substance abuse. Much like his mythical portrayal of Springfield witchcraft in the background (hag on a broom flying?).

    There are a number of errors in the image. Native Americans of the area where NEVER naked, especially in front of ‘John Cheese’ (aka Yankees or the English). Women where never part of trading posts nor parleys.Pychon’s offerings were not enough which got him into a lot of trouble with the Pocomtucs. However, European-borne diseases solved this dilemma – and marauding Mohawks..

    That is NOT a goatee. Native Americans have difficulty with growing facial hair. That was just Umberto’s distorted style of perspective. That was the Pocomtuc’s head hair draping down the front of his shoulder not his chin. Also Native’s were not that muscular neither were the English. Heavyset or gaunt yes but not built like Arnold S.

    I know many Nipmucs today. They would have a good laugh at Umberto’s artwork and your analysis of same.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 181pl says:

    Could be staring at a photo in a frame. Tin type or otherwise.


    • No. The mural depicting a 17th century scene (1600’s) could not have been a “tin type” or or “a photo”. That technology was just as alien to the Pale Face (Pynchon) depicted as as a smartphone would be. No it was supposed to be a poorly drawn hatchet blade. Natives had never seen iron hatchets yet. Umberto forgot to draw the blacksmith’s holes for the wood handle too.

      Typical Englishman, Pychon brought what he THOUGHT the “Indians” (a misnomer) wanted, Wampum belts, blankets, hatchet blades, Rum (xxx) etc. All the stuff Prince Phillip (aka Metacomet or Metagommat and his father Massasoit/Ossamequin – Yellow feather) tried to tell these morons they did not want nor need. At least I’m glad that Pychon did not bring broken mirrors, broken pottery, and diseased blankets which was common for British to do.

      The Mohawks. Peqout(oos), and the Narragansetts would have killed Pychon for the insult. This may have been the reasons why Prince Phillip went to war with them eventually (and lost). Pynchon was told to come back with a better offering and keep their cattle out of their hunting grounds which was totally ignored.

      The Agawam deal as well as most of New England AND NYC should be null and void today as many OTHER tribal nations made unauthorized land deals based on false authority. The Algonquian Confederacy should have been consulted rather than lesser known tribes as the Pocumtucks and the Nipmuc. At least the Wampanoags in Shawmut (Boston) should have been brought into a land parley. (POTUS Clinton did something about the Seneca-English bad deal in western NY and now charge legacy land rent to the non-aboriginal residents today)

      Also Pynchon would have NEVER worn PINK! Black and white was the Puritan garb of the day. Umberto’s mural is all wrong and the Wampanoags and Nipmuc should protest it and have it removed or altered for accuracy. Possibly the extant Mohicans, Peqouts, and Narrangansett may speak up in league with the Wampanoags and Nipmucs today. The new Casinos in East Windsor (Wappinger) and Springfield (Agawam) should say something too.

      RALPH LOSEY – I gotcha brother. However, we Internet types say /sarc when we are being sarcastic or “tongue-in-cheek” as you say. – Peace brother! =:-)


  3. Also forgot to say PYCHON would NEVER bring a SWORD to a land parley with the “Indians”. He was a Puritan that did not believe in violence. (Beat swords into plowshares?). Yes they did believe in lethal self-defense. So Pychon would have had armed men (muskets) off in the woods nearby in case the meeting went sideways. Of course the Pocomtucks had armed braves nearby and one in the mural was appropriately armed (for bears, cougars, wolves, and general hunting) – NOT corrupt land deals with the waseechews – greedy European settlers. But that was to keep the Mohawks from the west and Peqouts from south off their backs. The Narangansetts (from Rhode Island) were a threat too.

    Pychon should have brought liaisons from the “Indians” at Plimoth/Plymouth Plantation or even Roger Smith’s group from Rhode Island. If Pychon had met with Prince Phillip the deal would have been much more intense and expensive. His father Ossamequin would have given in and taken the ridiculous deal for Agawam. As he should when he gave away Shawmut (Boston) to the waseechews.

    Maybe the Mohawks today can reconcile their ancient treachery back then and say something about the Casinos in Springfield and East Windsor. Maybe the POTUS can make them pay legacy rent to the Wampanoags? Yeah right!!! =;-(


  4. “As he should when he gave away Shawmut (Boston) to the waseechews.”

    I meant as Ossamequin DID not SHOULD!!!


  5. […] what could this ‘iPhone’ be if not an iPhone? Well since the painting itself focuses on the man in pink, William Pynchon and […]


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