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.


Violin Door

7 thoughts on “Overcome”

  1. WOW now that is incredible! I love Chatsworth. We spent the day there a few years ago. I was in total awe… it was absolutely beautiful. I’d love to live in one of those pretty villages nearby :)
    Suzy x

    1. Oooh lovely! I’m very envious of you being close by! I’m going to be in the area around New Year’s Eve this year (staying with my old pal in Dronfield)… it would be cool to meet up there, but I know that’s always a difficult time of year for everyone! :)

    1. Fabulous! I’ll speak to my pal first, make sure she’s not booked me up the whole three days I’m there lol and then I’ll let you know. It would be so cool to finally meet you, Ravv!!! :D

  2. Because of Tolkien’s short story “Leaf by Niggle,” I think I can understand, at least a little, your reaction to a beautiful work of art that seemed startlingly real. Every artist creates worlds, but only as words on paper, or as sound-waves, or through movement in a dance, or in stone. In Tolkien’s story, humble Niggle’s attempts to paint a picture of a tree take him through a long time of suffering and frustration. But he is a good man and means well, so at his end, he discovers that his tree has become real, a beautiful part of a much larger world. Some theologians posit that God in his incredible generosity has called us to be co-creators. We make people, after all, and gardens. So what if, according to our deepest longing, our works of art become real in some incredible way, at some farther shore and in some dimension we don’t know. The thought of meeting my own characters there, to whom I have given part of my own spirit, brings tears. Maybe that is my violin.

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