Not immediately obvious

Walton Ford, “Jack on his Deathbed” (2005)


The collector’s temperament is fastidious, sceptical. The authority of the collector lies in his ability to say: no — not that. Though there is a vulgar accumulator in the soul of every collector, his avidity must be matched by the power of his refusals.
No, thank you. It’s very fine, but it’s not exactly what I was looking for. Almost, but not quite. The lip of the vase has a hairline crack, the painting is not as good as another of the same subject by this painter. I want an earlier work. I want a perfect example.

This seems right. But then plundering antiquities is not the same as killing butterflies. And something different does happen in the nineteenth century. Further research required. A glimmer of light:

…every collector soon reaches the point where he is collecting not only what he wants but what he doesn’t really want but is afraid to pass up, for fear he might want it, value it, some day. He can’t help showing these objects to me, the poet thought, even those he should not.

Quotations from Sontag’s The Volcano Lover. The collector is Sir William Hamilton, the poet is Goethe. The monkey in Walton Ford’s painting belonged to Hamilton.

Like what you read? Give Max Withers a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.