An Elderly Gentleman : IMAGE 94 : Relaxing
Following an extraordinary jumbo image in which the Elderly Gentleman lies supine on a beach chair beneath the lush, oversized canopy of a tropical palm (The Tree of Life), seeming to relax, I94 jarringly reveals him staring fixedly at nothing, his thoughts obsessed by the plight of his Eagle Corporation. (The twisting eagle itself seems trapped within the cage-like space of the small image.) The transition from jumbo image to small (a radical leap that occurs only seven times in Vertigo) accentuates the difference between the appearance of relaxation and the reality of the Elderly Gentleman's self-interred rigidity. 6 The immediate impact of any small images derives in part from its relationship to the size (and shape) of the image preceding it.
So, the sudden shift from jumbo to small image (I94 and I93) potentiates our apprehension of the Elderly Gentleman's discomfort, just as the smooth, legato succession of small images of The Boy and Girl in I43 and I44 potentiate our awareness of their private rapture.
Note that Ward has engraved fine lines at the very bottom of the block, and then broken off small bits in the area below the heavy diagonal of the Elderly Gentleman's chair, to convey a sense of instability, perhaps even to suggest that the image is beginning to crumble, like sand (which is physically present in the Cribblé effect on the Elderly Gentleman's side). The sense of instability is also conveyed by the narrowing of the block base, which Ward achieved by chiseling off about 1/3" of the lower right hand side, actually attenuating support for the Elderly Gentleman's head. Ward is not luridly insinuating that The Elderly Gentleman is decomposing (any more than he wants us to believe that there are eagles in the sky), but, rather, that the Elderly Gentleman luridly imagines himself to be decomposing. The syntax of the small image asks that we read the details of the image in terms of psychological space, in this case the (shrinking) psychological space of The Elderly Gentleman. (For additional note about the relationship between image and hourglass, see I132 and n. 10.)