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– William Max Nelson –

The evening light falling on the men is too good. It is light that does not really exist until we call it crepuscular and sublime and idealize it in a painting.

Closer to the water, next to an empty ship berth, goods are stacked, waiting to be moved to a warehouse. There are six large white sacks that would look sublime in their plainness if it were not for the number thirty-one drawn on the side of one of them.

These sacks and the sawyers in La ­Rochelle are the objects in a painting by Claude-Joseph Vernet completed in 1762 and displayed at the Paris Salon of 1763.

Although it is too small to see in most reproductions of this painting of the port, a large Chinese character is written on one of the sacks.

Berlin Childhood around 1900 is one of Benjamin’s small masterpieces. It grew out of notes he took in the


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