– Spring/Summer 2000
Walter De Maria
Afterword: Art and Theatre
Mark Lewis, Charles Esche
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1. Some thoughts on a spinning-top
The desk drawer is partially opened. A chalk-holder is jammed into the drawer and sticks out towards the viewer at a strange angle. A young, well-dressed boy stands at the desk, his hands and lower arms resting upon it; the thumb and finger of his right hand touch, as if he might have just been, or as if anticipating or imagining holding something. Immediately in front of the boy is a quill pen that sits in its ink-pot and which in turn rests upon a closed book. Another book and a rolled parchment are immediately to the right of the boy. The boy pays no attention to any of these accoutrements of learning, instead he watches a spinning-top that tilts slightly towards him at the very left-hand edge of the desk. Typical of genre works by this painter, the rendering of the background is confusing: it's not at all clear if the desk is in a corner, or if the wall behind the boy is simply curved.
Looking at Chardin's Portrait of the Son of M. Godefroy, Jeweller, Watching a Top Spin one is immediately struck by the boy's absolute absorption: he is literally transfixed by the spinning-top's magical balancing act. For a moment, it seems as if the whole world outside does not exist for the boy: not conversations with friends and family, nor the world of books and parchment - the representatives of study and learning, another form of absorption. However the absorption depicted