An Elderly Gentleman : IMAGE 79 : Leaving
Following the introduction to Vertigo’s middle section, "An Elderly Gentleman," a series of images depicts the Gentleman’s privileged lifestyle and isolation. I79, which illustrates his noticeably skeletal butler helping him into a voluminous overcoat, once again emphasizes the Gentleman’s weakness. Note the clock face that, although seemingly pushed into the background, commands the scene. Placing it between the light—into which the Gentleman bends—and the heavy shadow above the butler's bony shoulder, Ward expresses Modern Man's dreadful sense of the evanescence of time. As implied in I76, the small images in the Elderly Gentleman section are marked by the symbolism of death and mutability, and a sense of loss, incompletely exorcised. Some of the Gothic anxiety suffusing I79 flows from the theatrical staging of heavily over-determined details, e.g. cadaverous butler, grandfather clock, a black overcoat, a bent walking stick.
That the confluence of these multivalent symbols (of affluence and decay, antiquity and momentariness,comfort and decrepitude, social stature and humiliation) occurs within the contracted space of the small block—and, by implication, within the psyche of the Gentleman—creates an additional claustrophobic tension that magnifies their effect.