by Basil Ede
MAIN PAGE ⎔ SECTION PAGE ⎔ SITE MAP ⎔ GLOSSARY
ART OF ROOM 237
BABY LEOPARD ON A ROCK ⎔ DOG, BOY & ST. JOHN RIVER ⎔ FOUR JOHN GOULD BIRDS ⎔ FOX RESTING ⎔ MANDARIN DUCKS ⎔ MYSTERIES ⎔ MYSTERY VESUVIUS ⎔ PORTRAIT OF A FOX: ALERT ⎔ STILL LIFE OF FLOWERS IN A JUG
Seen once inside room 237 from 71:58-72:05.
Ede was exposed to Asia and its art in his early 20s thanks to his Merchant Navy position aboard the “Orient Line’s Empire Orwell” in 1952. Ede’s bird art lead him to a few early encounters with halls of power, first by becoming the first living artist to receive a one-man show at the National Collection of Fine Arts in Washington D.C., which was sponsored by the British Embassy. Second, his first book, Birds of Town and Village, featured a foreword penned by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, better known to some as the husband of the current Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II.
In 1971 American collector Jack Warner commissioned him with the apparently ambitious task of painting every species of wild bird in America–of which there are 650–in life size. This project ensured that Ede’s task would be compared to Audubon’s similar 28-year efforts to do similarly. A stroke in 1989, paralyzing Ede’s right side, cut this project short, but at the time of The Shining’s filming, Ede would likely have been thought of as the British Audubon (I also can’t help noticing his resemblance to Dr. Seuss and George Romero, but I doubt that’s a factor here). In any case, I suspect this piece to be the result of Ede’s trips abroad, and part of one of his ‘60s exhibits, since the mandarin duck is not a native species to the Americas.
As for the mandarin duck, its Latin name starts with the word “Aix”, which looks a lot like “ax”, Jack’s murder weapon. And while its name recalls its Asian origins, it has since spread across Europe, especially in Britain and the region of Berlin. Its dominant threats are logging and poaching, which could be significant, since, as we’ll see shortly, a few of the animal art pieces in this room reflect creatures vulnerable to human slaughter.
Symbolically, the mandarin ducks are quite significant across cultures in Asia. The Japanese use their name (oshidori) in the phrase “oshidori fūfu”, meaning “a couple of lovebirds” or “a happily married couple”. While in Korea, where the ducks represent fidelity, a pair of wooden mandarin ducks (painted red and blue) are given as wedding gifts, and are known as “wedding ducks”. But the ducks are most significant in China, where the birds are referred to as “yuanyang” where “yuan” means male, and “yang” means female. Which is odd since, in “yin-yang” the yin refers to feminine energy and the yang refers to masculine energy, but there’s a colloquial use of yuanyang that means “unlikely pair” or “odd couple” (thanks in part to how different the male and female appear as birds). So this inverted “yang” might have some bearing on that, I’m not sure. The ducks were also used on the flag of Weihaiwei, which was a port in China leased to the British from 1903-1930.
So, the implication here would seem obvious. Jack is about to betray his wife’s trust with the hotel’s lead seductress. But I wonder if it’s also meant as part of the hotel’s promise of fidelity to Jack, or even a comment on the 237 ghost’s split nature of healthy youth and decrepit death. Also, there’s several other paintings in the apartment of a pair of animal mates (birds in all cases), so the idea of coupling is rife in here. The mirror moment for this painting passing by is Jack asking Wendy, “Are you out of your fucking mind?” Not exactly a moment of marital bliss.
There’s also a genre of Chinese fiction that fell out of popularity after the 1930s called “Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies” (since both these animals have a connection to partnership and romance), which were fluffy, escapist tales concerning romance, scandals and “high crimes”. This style was rejected by the May Fourth Movement, which was concerned with moving Chinese culture toward democracy, science, egalitarianism, women’s liberation, the end of patriarchy, and a re-examination of Confucian thought. A young Mao Zedong was hugely influenced by the May Fourth Movement.
So there’s a great deal of past-ness being invoked by this piece, it seems. These ducks seem to have experienced the height of their cultural significance in China during the years Jack is experiencing in his Overlook time travelling.
I’m also struck by the Asian banner style of this piece, and suspect it will prove to bear some connection to the piece seen in the Torrance apartment in Boulder, if we can ever ID it.
This moment is dominated by Jack’s reaction to Wendy’s recounting of Danny’s 237 experience: “Are you out of you fucking mind?” Wendy is able to respond a bit before it’s gone, “No. It’s the truth! Danny told me!” Does Jack’s disbelief speak to the piece? To its historic/cultural/symbolic value? Or do these radically different male/female birds simply speak to the psychic gulf between husband and wife in this moment? I should probably note here that the next painting we’ll look at appears at 72:01, accompanying Jack’s disbelief here. And since that painting is of a fox, and since that fox seems to relate to the 237 ghost, I’m guessing marital harmony is the main subtext here, and that the interrupting fox represents Jack’s inability to believe in the suffering of his child.
Next art reference: Fox Resting
MAIN PAGE ⎔ SECTION PAGE ⎔ SITE MAP ⎔ GLOSSARY
OTHER MAIN PAGES FOR SHINING ANALYSIS
THE MIRRORFORM ⎔ THE BEATLES ⎔ THE RUM AND THE RED
BACKGROUND ART ⎔ OVERLOOK PHOTOGRAPHS ⎔ GOLDEN SPIRALS
PHI GRIDS ⎔ PATTERNS ⎔ VIOLENCE AND INDIGENA ⎔ ABSURDITIES
THE STORY ROOM ⎔ ANIMAL SYMBOLS ⎔ THE ANNOTATED SHINING