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Arthur R. Berg was a very wealthy man. He was a renowned businessman in his field. He achieved his goals by any possible means. Yet, this story is not about how he achieved dizzying success in financial affairs, and his brilliant business acumen, but about the fantastic misadventure caused by his mad passion for painting. This enthusiasm was expressed in collecting original paintings by famous artists. As a person who saw any deal from a commercial point of view, his love for art was automatically considered by others to be an effective investment. But, to Berg, art was more than money framed on a wall. An educated man, perceptive of culture, and a connoisseur of fine arts, he regarded a piece of art to the highest degree of its manifestation. For the past 17 years, he had gathered an impressive collection. To store it, an enormous mansion-gallery was made available in London, where he spent most of his free time. There, he got an aesthetic pleasure alone with his grand collection. In complete quiet, he wandered from one room to another, beheld full palettes of works by great masters, and admired the elegance of the portraits and the flourish within the landscapes. He could stand for hours in front of a picture of some genius, just getting a grasp at every stroke.
For Berg, a picture was like a book to be read, and which he was eager to read over and over again. Sometimes, he got so lost in the exhibits that he daydreamed himself into scenes from picnics in meadows to cavalry clashes on battlefields. Occasionally, he visited major exhibitions only for the sake of one picture, to understand and meditate about.
One day, in a large antique shop, he saw a picture of medium size, behind the counter, of a young, beautiful lady from what he gathered was a higher secular society in the early 19th century. She was in a luxury dress, in a chair. Her features were angel-like. A small table in front of her featured a chessboard. Her opponent was a gentleman in a tuxedo. But he was on the couch opposite, and thoughtfully held the white king in his left hand, pondering and not knowing where to retreat under the pressure of the young socialite. The game was in full swing, and by the position of the pieces on the board it could be judged that the priority in the struggle belonged to the young lady.
The painter managed to capture the gleam in her eyes, on the cusp of victory. Near the chessboard was a bunch of papers that seemed to be financial documents, and it could be assumed the game was not for the curiosity of the onlookers gathered, but for the documents. The bystanders were exclusively men, and the occasion was some dinner party. Berg was almost spellbound by the picture, and said almost aloud, “I’d give anything in the world just to play a game of chess with this stunningly beautiful creature.”
At that moment, a manager of the shop was passing by, and Berg pulled him by his sleeve nervously and demanded, “How much is this picture? I am buying it now.”
“Sorry, but this picture isn’t for sale,” the manager replied coldly. “What do you mean, not for sale? Then why is it on the display?”
“You are not the first person in our antique shop who would like to see this work of art in a collection. This picture is not for sale. Let me explain: The picture is our charm. It has been here since we started this business. As long as we have it, we believe our family business will only thrive. So, no,” the manager said in a cool tone.