Nothing, or the Magic Pin Board

Part ten of Nothing

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.” Shakespeare (Hamlet)

The most personal of Gijsbrechts’ deceptions casually pins down all art, and individual identity, as a coat of arms on a plain wooden board. A musical instrument, the tools of his own craft of painting, even himself, in a miniature self-portrait, are stuck there, a declaration of THIS IS ME, all in vain, until somebody three and a half centuries later looks at them.

GijsbrechtsTrompe_l'oeilviolin art

Gijsbrechts, Trompe l’oeil with violin, painters implements and self-portrait, oil on canvas, 1675,
Royal Castle, Warsaw. Image: Wikipedia

We should be so lucky, to create anything so well-made that it lasts beyond a moment on the web. Most of it is worthless, read or not. Words, words, words as a fictional Danish prince said in around 1602.

There is nothing deep here, on this blog, only a brazen attempt to create the illusion. I don’t know much about Nihilism and Existentialism, and can seldom untangle a metaphysical conceit, but, as I like the sound of the words, I’m content to use them as labels for states of mind, alluding to concepts without fully understanding them, just like a monkey would, and now with WP technology I can tag them, separating them with commas, meaninglessly. “Words are wise men’s counters….but they are the money of fools” (Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651).

I blog profitlessly, in every sense.  I shouldn’t be here at all; I should be out, trying to earn a living, not flirting with dead men and downloading old pictures. “Vanity of vanities! all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, King James Bible version, 1611).


wood by Martin Hübscher Photography  © August 2014

Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts began his adventure in still-life and trompe l’oeil in Antwerp, then found customers in the German cities of Regensburg and Hamburg, before he was appointed court painter in Copenhagen where he decorated the King’s Kunstkammer, one of the greatest of all European cabinets of curiosities, with his illusions of illusions; no job or position ever lasted, he always moved on, itinerant artist in search of the same theme, first to Stockholm, and then back to Germany, to Breslau, now the Polish city of Wroclaw, and then, almost full circle, he returned to Flanders, ending up in Bruges. On the way, he broke the fourth wall.


Gijsbrechts, Trompe l’Oeil. A Cabinet of Curiosities with an Ivory Tankard, 1670
Image: SMK – Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

Gijsbrechts painted a series of representations of cabinets of curiosities, with closed or half open doors revealing the eclectic objects inside, for the Perspective Chamber of the real cabinet of curiosities of the Danish kings, a sort of site-specific art installation, except none of the objects were real.

Visitors to the Chamber were unwittingly entering a stage-set. In one of the paintings, they were given a glimpse back-stage. The door opens on to nothing, Lord Rochester’s “Great Negative”, the beginning and end of everything, into which all our words and illusions must “undistinguished fall”, where the cosmos itself started and will end.

That is the rational end, but for most of us it is not the end of illusion. We are unable or unwilling to grasp finality in our minds. When we look at the picture, we are tempted to jump into the grey empty space on another adventure of the imagination, through a portal to another world.

Gijsbrechts’ tricks with our eyes were intended to entertain, no more, but few things, let alone people, turn out exactly as intended. Some of us spending too much time looking at his painted half open-doors, might find, like Keats looking at the Grecian Urn, an art form “dost tease us out of thought”. Is it something, or nothing?

Unable to encompass the magnitude, or the littleness, of what art and history is telling me, bemused by all their illusions, this blogger is like one of those people described by Hobbes in Leviathan as “birds that entering by the chimney, and finding themselves enclosed in a chamber, flutter at the false light of a glass window, for want of wit to consider which way they came in.”

It’s been a long train of thought that’s led me here, and, look, guess what, at the last post, all those words, all those pictures of dead princes and poets, their monkeys and dogs, all those letter racks and skulls and fruit pieces, they’ve all been in vain, and I’ve blogged my way to dusty


6 comments on “Nothing, or the Magic Pin Board

  1. […] tragic, ruthless glance… is a question of his salvation….. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce” Kierkegaard (1813 […]


  2. erickeyswriter says:

    If you’re concerned about me having your email, it’s easy enough to create a new one at or yahoo, etc. I know some folks are skittish about giving perverts like me their personal email address.


  3. erickeyswriter says:

    Send me an email and I will send you copies of all me eBooks.

    Ah! In laws! Take your time, Pippa. I know that can be stressful. Of course, my in-laws are Texan and everything is bigger in Texas… Maybe things are different with yours.


  4. PJR says:

    I don’t have Kindle. Any other access for me to yr story? I will follow all links you have sent me as soon as I have time after the weekend – I’ve just surfaced from a few days away working, but the water is not safe because the in-laws are coming!
    You preempted the Great Nothing of my ending as “the nothing we all face” several posts ago.
    Being read to by a parent is a crucial childhood joy, I believe, and stays with you.


  5. erickeyswriter says:

    “When we look at the picture, we are tempted to jump into the grey empty space on another adventure of the imagination, through a portal to another world.”

    Ah! You’ve been reading my mind, yes? I stay up reading childrens books to my children. They are full of adventures and I often imagine what it would be like for my children to ply their way into these dream worlds only to find that there has been a bait-and-switch. The door to this other world was just a door into nothing.

    That is the horror…

    This idea partly inspired the story I wrote for this anthology:

    But I have a feeling there is another story in me on this theme.

    “they’ve all been in vain, and I’ve blogged my way to dusty


    Like Pete, I will have to say your path may have led to Nothing, but it is the nothing we all face. Let us sing and dance of nothing. If we have all fallen for the bait-and-switch, then at least…

    Wait… No… I must defer to a better writer than myself. Anything I say will just be a pale imitation. As Thomas Ligotti says:

    “This, then, is the ultimate, that is only, consolation: simply that someone shares some of your own feelings and has made of these a work of art which you have the insight, sensitivity, and — like it or not — peculiar set of experiences to appreciate. Amazing thing to say, the consolation of horror in art is that it actually intensifies our panic, loudens it on the sounding-board of our horror-hollowed hearts, turns terror up full blast, all the while reaching for that perfect and deafening amplitude at which we may dance to the bizarre music of our own misery.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. beetleypete says:

    I cannot agree with your conclusion of course. But then I wouldn’t, would I?
    What may seem a ‘dusty nothing’ to you has been inspiring, educational, entertaining, and more importantly, worthwhile. Less transient than a performance on stage, however good, the process may seem pointless to the author, and that bird from the chimney might still be fluttering at a window ‘for want of wit’, but isn’t that a perfect description of the mystery of existence?

    In an electronic world full of pointless meanderings, you have left something more.
    And that is more than enough, at least for me.
    As ever, Pete. x

    Liked by 2 people

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