. . . [A] wealthy oilman, Calouste Gulbenkian, accumulated a fabulous art collection and called the works ‘my children’. Mostly ignoring his flesh-and-blood son and daughter, he lived to serve his art. Claiming that ‘my children must have privacy’ and ‘a home fit for Gulbenkians to live in’, he built a mansion in Paris with barricades, watchdogs and a private secret service. He routinely refused requests to loan his art to museums, and did not allow visitors, since ‘my children mustn’t be disturbed’. But even this extreme of a collector who prefers art to people shows the importance of the social role of collecting, since Gulbenkian simply treated artworks as if they were people. And, when Gulbenkian left his collection to found an eponymous museum in Lisbon upon his death in 1955, he showed that he cared about people after all – just not the ones he happened to know.
Erin Thompson, Why People Collect Art , Aeon magazine
He had this year, on the eve of his anniversary, as happened, an emotion not unconnected with that range of feeling. Walking home at the close of a busy day he was arrested in the London street by the particular effect of a shop-front that lighted the dull brown air with its mercenary grin and before which several persons were gathered. It was the window of a jeweller whose diamonds and sapphires seemed to laugh, in flashes like high notes of sound, with the mere joy of knowing how much more they were “worth” than most of the dingy pedestrians staring at them from the other side of the pane. Stransom lingered long enough to suspend, in a vision, a string of pearls about the white neck of Mary Antrim, and then was kept an instant longer by the sound of a voice he knew. Next him was a mumbling old woman, and beyond the old woman a gentleman with a lady on his arm. It was from him, from Paul Creston, the voice had proceeded: he was talking with the lady of some precious object in the window. Stransom had no sooner recognised him than the old woman turned away; but just with this growth of opportunity came a felt strangeness that stayed him in the very act of laying his hand on his friend’s arm. It lasted but the instant, only that space sufficed for the flash of a wild question. Was NOT Mrs. Creston dead?–the ambiguity met him there in the short drop of her husband’s voice, the drop conjugal, if it ever was, and in the way the two figures leaned to each other.
Henry James The Altar of the Dead