Take a close look at Saying Grace, one of Norman Rockwell’s best-known works. In a crowded railway-station diner, an old woman and a little boy bow their heads in prayer before eating. A pair of young men regard them at close range, forced by the diner’s busyness to share their table with the pious twosome; only a centerpiece condiment tray separates the parties. The onlookers’ faces betray curiosity, even a slight sense of bemusement, but not a hint of mockery or contempt. Zoom out a bit farther and you’ll notice two more observers taking in the scene: a hardened middle-aged man standing off to the left (waiting for a table?) and a seated fellow in the foreground, winding up his meal with coffee and a cigar. Amid all the evident cacophony in the restaurant, these men surely couldn’t have been alerted by their ears to the woman’s and boy’s murmurings; more likely, they caught sight of this strange tableau while idly scanning the room, their heads abruptly stopping mid-swivel, their thoughts somewhere along the lines of “Well, I’ll be goddamned.”
more from David Kamp at Vanity Fair here.