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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

#Historical Valentine: A catalouger professes her love

To Mr Turner, mine own Mallard

One hundred and sixty three years separate us in time, but I am consumed by an ardent affection, nay… dare I say it… love. I am but a modest research cataloguer. Daily I pore over the folios of your sketchbooks and a carnival of bliss flourishes in my heart (and in my loins, to be sure). And, as though ‘electrified by some far off strain of heavenly harmony’, I am convinced that you, angel, return my regard.

Yes, dearest one, I am certain that you have left in your dashed-off notes secret messages for me in which you proclaim your adoration. I have deduced your hidden sentiments.

Your hand, darling, is so often taxing to transcribe. But whoever said that the puzzle of love was easy to solve? Our hand inevitably falters when given to inscribe the outpourings of the heart upon a blank leaf of paper. Cold void that it is.  Upon close inspection with my magnifying lens (thrilling, as I am bought ever closer to you: the trace of your porte-crayon upon the page, the textures of your calligraphic mark), I see that you are trying to communicate your esteem for me in your marginal notes, though you are long departed of these mortal realms and I remain here, in Millbank, SW1.

I notice, for example, that you inscribed the letter ‘B’ in a note on Folio 168 Verso of your Rivers Meuse and Moselle sketchbook, next to a sketch of the Minnewater at Bruges, well known by locals as the ‘Lake of Love’. Then, on Folio 118 Recto of the very same book, you’ve written ‘Meine’. Finberg says you’ve written ‘Metz’ but I won’t be convinced. You’ve entreated me: I want to ‘B’ yours too. What’s more, when you inscribed ‘Alluf’ on 258 Verso, you meant ‘I Luff’ didn’t you? Well I ‘Luff’ you too. And don’t think I didn’t see the inscription ‘Light’ to the right of the pontoon bridge in your colour sketch of Koblenz (c.1824). This surely refers to nothing less than the glowing light which radiates from your heart for me, the light of your life, sweet one. Yes, and in the Roman and French Note Book of 1828 (folio 66 verso) I saw the note: ‘La Fille Bonnard. Paris’. Is this your nickname for me? Is this where we will meet one day, in Paris, the City of Love?

Mon amour, I could recount one hundred and sixty three more examples of your secret marginalia, one for each year that we have been separated. But now our love disclosed, I would embrace your pocket books, caress your gouaches in perpetuity…were it not, dash it, for the impediments imposed by our paper conservation department…

Yours ever truly...   

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