An Object of Beauty

One has a hard time determining if the object of beauty Steve Martin is talking about is that of Lacey, with whom the narrator is obviously smitten, or the art which inspires Lacey, and others, to collect.

I am amazed at Steve’s ability to write about such work. Consider the following painting by John Singer Sargent and Martin’s description of it:

In front of them was Sargent’s El Jaleo. At almost twelve feet long, it had not been imagined by Lacey to be so monumental, and she felt now that as she approached it, the picture would engulf her. a Spanish dancer, her head thrown back, an arm reaching forward with a castanet, her other hand dramatically raising her white dress, steps hard on the floor. Behind, a bank of guitarists strum a flamenco rhythm that is impossible for us not to think we hear, and one hombre is caught in midclap, a clap we finish in our minds. Another is snoring. The scene is lit from below, as though by a fire, throwing up a wild plume of shadow behind the dancer. The frenzy and fever of the dance, the musicians, and the audience are palpable.

In Lacey, the picture aroused her deeper hunger for wild adventure that could not be fulfilled by a trip to Boston in modern times. She longed for wanton evenings spent in a different century, her own head tilted back, flashing a castanet and a slip of leg, and sex with men no longer among then living. Just then, Joshua leaned in to her and whispered, “That dress is fantastic.”

Filled with double entendres, and a wonderfully dry sense of humour, I’m not sure where Steve is going with his heroine. As of now, I have no respect for her. But, for Steve? I applaud his writing, let alone his knowledge of art and the fools in Manhattan who sell themselves for it.