The Scarlet Letter

Factual error: In the final trial scene, held outdoors in the town center, tribunal members who are on the raised platform are shown sitting by or leaning on tables spread with small, Persian-style carpets. It is likely that the set designer based this choice on an early American painting, which does include many subjects posing with furniture thus bedecked; however, the practice of laying a carpet on a table was employed only when posing for an artist's portrait under particular pricing terms set for a commission. Artists charged their rich patrons based on a scale of bodily detail. The more limbs, the greater the price. (You've no doubt heard the related expression 'to cost an arm and a leg.') A composition from the waist up would be more affordable, but would necessarily exclude a prized carpet, which was an icon of personal affluence. So, the artist adapted and cleverly laid an admired carpet on a desk or table to satisfy the vain, yet thrifty patron.

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