A man who frequents the theatre and finds solace in an actress whose "vivid appearance illuminated the empty spaces, and, with a breath and a word, summoned the shadowy figures of the actors back to life.".
The object of his desire is a woman who "showed her simple beauty against a curtain of shadows...".
Nerval paints a compelling picture of a man whose obsession for beauty injects colour back into his life, and lends shape to the shadows that populate his world.
His quest for beauty will take him, and us, on a sentimental journey through the places of his childhood.
A landscape of magical places inhabited by hauntingly attractive individuals, who take us by the hand through a landscape of memories and dreams.
A landscape where reality is but a detail that recedes in importance as our protagonist's and our imagination takes flight.
A landscape that consumes and seduces us in equal measure.
"I left the theatre where I sat every evening in a stage box, dressed with the elegance and care befitting my hopes. Sometimes the house was full, and sometimes empty, but it mattered little to me whether my eyes rested upon thirty or forty deadheads in the pit and upon boxes filled with old-time caps and dresses, or whether I found myself part of an enthusiastic audience, crowding every tier with color and the gleam of jewels. The stage awakened my interest no more than did the house, except, during the second and third scene of the tiresome play, when a vivid appearance illuminated the empty spaces, and, with a breath and a word, summoned the shadowy figures of the actors back to life.
I felt that I lived in her, and that she lived only for me. Her smile filled me with infinite contentment, and the resonance of her voice, now soft, now vibrating with emotion, made me tremble with joy and love. She understood all my enthusiasms and whims; for me she possessed every perfection – radiant as the day, when the footlights were tuned down and the rays of the chandelier showed her simple beauty against a curtain of shadows, like one of the divine Hours carved on the sombre background of the frescoes of Herculaneum."