But everything was not to be solved at once, this would happen slowly, step by step, because each phase contains its own story and value.
Of course, as I suspected, we were talking about a masterwork out of sight, but that was not the reason for my quest. My search was born in the appearance of that magical moment, during which all kinds of factors fell together and started being connected with my first view of this painting, in these romantic circumstances: there, in this hotel, a passage for travellers. As more questions arose, the more my astonishment grew, even with questions which would be never answered such as: how many and whose eyes had seen this painting before, how did they spend the night in presence of this painting. I should ask if they remembered having seen this painting and what were their thoughts?
As for myself? Of course I should have photographed the painting in the room, and after purchase the same view, but with the empty contours of the format on the wall, a bit more bleached as all wallpaper: the room definitively changed forever, making the continuous stream of visitors from that moment totally random and not anymore interesting. Because the images and objects in someone’s room, even in an hotel room, like improvised small altars, are really important. They connect memory and experience; they are conscious metaphors and create secret connections of inner life. In a picture they become public and get an extra meaning, as example, as metaphor. With time it’s clearly true that the elder generation is slowly disappearing. I was involved in this almost violent process of making rooms empty –everything in its place for decades-, but I took pictures before, as a visual document and monument of this intimate biotope of objects and pictures. It’s a theme in my work and this rises up from time to time.
Why didn’t I in the case of the Desgranges painting? Why I didn’t make these pictures? I don’t know. Maybe the process of ownership was too exciting; maybe the connection was still too subtle, too much for a camera. Maybe it’s just as life itself, to make a picture asks for distance from what you are doing: kissing, reading, or discovering a painting. With such intense moments, in which you are involved yourself it’s not always possible to make pictures.
Finally the special value of these not made photos is, looking back, bigger. Because of a quest, a story of a wall in a room in a hotel in France. The morning light enters the window on the eastside. In front of the bed, a high case and a chair. In between, on plain faded wallpaper, the negative shadow of a hidden, small and inconspicuous painting.