Statue shadowplay: the 19th-century cartoonist Gavarni watches unsuspecting passersby at Place Saint-Georges.
One evening this summer, a friend's three-year-old son, who was visiting my apartment with his five-year-old sister, asked me, "Is that you?" I followed the direction of his tiny pointed finger to a photograph on my wall that I had taken during a trip to New Orleans. The photo is of a statue of a woman, her left arm outstretched to accommodate a dove, which is about to land on her index finger. "No," I told him, thankful that he hadn't confused me with the city's sculpture of Ignatius J. Reilly. "It's a statue."
"What's a statue?" his sister replied.
I realized then how difficult it is to explain the concept of statues to children, especially to children who have grown up in Paris. Statues are everywhere in this city — in parks, on street corners, even in a few métro stations. These kids, I realized, must see at least five a day. I wondered if, to them, the statues are real people — silent and still, but alive all the same.
A few nights later, I came across the scene above, which lent a bit of credence to this fanciful theory. Perhaps Hollywood should make a version of Night at the Museum in Paris?