The Secret Cabinet of Doctor Ambrosius

by Michael Dunev

Doctor Ambrosius was one of those exquisite old school characters, educated in prestigious European academies, perhaps in Vienna or Prague.  He dedicated his life to the investigation of the meaning of beauty, and he studied its multifaceted manifestations as they appeared in literature and music or in painting, sculpture or photography.  His research took him to travel to distant lands, where in the most unexpected corners of the world he encountered people who lived only to create works of art.  He met painters and musicians, poets and dancers, and many more, who showed him the beauty inherent in the creative process.  Doctor Ambrosius was thrilled, but he yearned for more.  He began to collect examples of all those things that interested him, and he wandered through the world accumulating paintings, books, musical scores and antiquities until, crammed with priceless works of art, he filled every room in his house.  And as he continued to collect, he soon filled a warehouse with more acquisitions, and then another and another, which by the hermetic secretiveness of his distinguished personality, he kept under lock and key, like a secret cabinet.

I met him many years later, when he already was a well-known collector and an assiduous visitor to my gallery.  One day, as we were studying a woodcut by Kirchner that he was especially interested in, he quietly asked me if I knew what, more than anything else, he would like to have before he died.  Thinking that he was referring to some unattainable treasure, some Holy Grail that he had been unable to acquire throughout his travels, I remained silent, expecting to hear of the lost opportunity, of the piece that had gotten away and could never be recovered.  After a while, without looking at me, he replied, "what I want more than anything else, is to learn how to see."

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