My Substitute for Pistol and Ball
(chapters 1–16), painting
In the paintings about Moby Dick, which Reuvers created several years after the etchings, he initially used the same visual materials. In this painting, which also deals with the same chapters as the etching Nantucket, he again uses the deformed harpoons, the Tiki figurine, the shrunken head, the portraits of Melville and Tailor, the map of Nantucket, the title page of the first edition of Moby Dick, the magical square, the opening statement of the book and the Tahitian sailors.
The realistic representation of the documents and objects, including shadow effects, places this work in the tradition of the trompe l’oeil still life. This is reinforced by the addition of real elements to the images, such as the hair of the shrunken head.
But there are new references too. In the top left, for example, we see ‘The Black Dot’: the button-like black bubble in the centre of the vortex in which everybody and everything eventually disappears. Underneath it, we find the minuscule logo of Larousse, an important source of information for Reuvers.
And underneath the logo, we see a mouse trap of the brand ‘Cantmiss’ – referring to ‘The Trap’ mentioned in chapter two, ‘The Carpet-Bag’ – and the painting The Whaleship by Turner, which Ishmael examines in the inn. In Turner’s painting, which belongs to the collection of the Tate Gallery in London, a whale rises out of the water to throw itself on the bowsprit of a whaler.