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The Cover
September 26, 2001

Son

Author Affiliations
 

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2001;286(12):1419. doi:10.1001/jama.286.12.1419

The painting seems straightforward enough: twilight, a sturdy, sinewy tree against a background of lush, gray-green foliage; among its branches huge, luminous, yellow globes hung like so many Chinese lanterns. But that is only at first glance. If one looks again—or perhaps just a little longer the first time—it begins to appear that things may not be quite what they seem. The globes, for example, could be not paper lanterns, but helium balloons wafting upward on an evening breeze. Or they could be rising moons, harvest moons, or brassy summer suns. Moreover, it is not only the objects in the painting that seem strange: it is the light as well, a hard, metallic light that glows like pewter amid tarnished brass. Nor does the title help. A single word, at first it, too, seems simple and straightforward; ultimately, it only deepens the mystery. And what of the painting's genre? The tree signifies a nature painting, a landscape perhaps, but then where is the horizon? Whence emanates the eerie light, flickering like ghosts among the trees? Where is the "Son" the title names?

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