This morning I was remembering the first -and only- time that I was overcome by a work of art: totally undone, shattered and in tears.
Good friends were visiting from the States and we were on a tour of Chatsworth (as you do). It seems that least one visit to a castle or big house is a prerequisite or any first-time visit to the UK. Chatsworth House is gorgeous, richly decorated yet still feeling like a home for real people. One can imagine children running in the hallways and kisses stolen on the back stairs. In places it is overdone, such as in the State Music Room. Carved wooden panels, golden filigree on everything, inlaid marble and Russian malachite, incredible paintings. It is a room of sensory overload.
And then, to one side of the room, you see a half-open door and a violin hanging against a wood panel, very plain against the excess of the room. It hangs in shadow and a golden glow of light, without decoration, perfect lines of unadorned wood. As you look closer, you realise that it isn’t real at all, but a painting. It undid me.
I don’t have the words to describe how I felt, even now. It was something to do with the sheer overabundance of richness and detail in the room, contrasted with the perfect simplicity of the violin. Or perhaps it was the realisation that it was a painting rather than a real thing, and the emotional overload in that understanding, I don’t know. I stood in tears, almost choking with it, aware that I looked like a total idiot but unable to stop it. Even now it is one of the most powerful things that I have ever felt.