chapter  4
Crying Because You’ve Been Hit by a Lightning Bolt
Pages 15

AN ENGLISH PROFESSOR at a western university wrote to me about a picture his wife had painted, showing their bed empty and unmade. Some time after she painted it, she had an affair. The man says that one day, he was alone in the bedroom. He was standing by the bed, and he happened to look up at the painting. At last he real ized what it meant: it was their bed, which his wife had abandoned. He began to cry. It is tempting to sweep this kind of story under the rug. It’s raw, and it sounds more like a confession than a story about a picture. My correspondent didn’t even bother to describe the painting: its quality didn’t matter to him, only its subject. The story seems different from the ones I described in the last chapter. After all, Franz, Brigitte, and Kamil may have been suffering from the dubious Stendhal syndrome, but at least they were afflicted by major works of art. Caravaggio, Fra Angelico, and Masaccio are all old masters, and there is good reason to be at least a little emotional when you see them. The English professor’s wife’s painting is a different matter.