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Toys & Play

Swiss Top


In the late 1970s, physicist Philip Morrison recorded the narration for one of the best-known Eames films, Powers of Ten, which zoomed out from a picnicking couple all the way to the edges of the universe. But Morrison found that the earlier Eames film, Tops, was actually more effective in helping him envision celestial bodies, explaining that, “because it intimately shows real tops, so carefully set spinning, so diversely searched out, it can stand in my world for something it cannot show at all: the unseen enormous tops of the stars, pulsars and quasars far in space.” With this in mind, shots like the one in which small wooden tops similar to this one spin amongst a cluster of several others of the same design begins to look like a galaxy of stars. The tops, which come from Switzerland, are each painted in a different rich tone—teal, yellow, orange, and burgundy—and offer an impressive display when seen together.

  • Medium:Wood, paint, brass
  • Dimensions:1 1/4 x 1 1/2 in. (3.2 x 3.8 cm)
  • Item:T.2019.2.247.30