Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0014208, Tue, 28 Nov 2006 16:27:04 -0500

Painting a motorcar (a la Victor in PN)
My daughter asked me, and I ask the list: Has anyone ever tried to
paint this image of a motor car, as described in Pnin? If not, what
a pleasant cross-curricular project.

Jamie McEwan

<if Degas could immortalize a calèche, why could not Victor Wind do
the same to a motor car?

One way to do it might be by making the scenery penetrate the
automobile. A polished black sedan was a good subject, especially if
parked at the intersection of a tree-bordered street and one of those
heavyish spring skies whose bloated gray clouds and amoeba-shaped
blotches of blue seem more physical than the reticent elms and
evasive pavement. Now break the body of the car into separate curves
and panels; then put it together in terms of reflections. These will
be different for each part: the top will display inverted trees with
blurred branches growing like roots into a washily photographed sky,
with a whalelike building swimming by ** an architectural
afterthought; one side of the hood will be coated with a band of rich
celestial cobalt; a most delicate pattern of black twigs will be
mirrored in the outside surface of the rear window; and a remarkable
desert view, a distended horizon, with a remote house here and a lone
tree there, will stretch along the bumper. This mimetic and
integrative process Lake called the necessary “naturalization” of man-
made things. In the streets of Cranton, Victor would find a suitable
specimen of car and loiter around it. Suddenly the sun, half masked
but dazzling, would join him. For the sort of theft Victor was
contemplating there could be no better accomplice. In the chrome
plating, in the glass of a sun-rimmed headlamp, he would see a view
of the street and himself comparable to the microcosmic version of a
room (with a dorsal view of diminutive people) in that very special
and very magical small convex mirror that, half a millennium ago, Van
Eyck and Petrus Christus and Memling used to paint into their
detailed interiors, behind the sour merchant or domestic Madonna.>

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