The Suvery Gallery in Paris was housed in an impressive building, an elegant eighteenth-century hôtel particulier on the Faubourg St. Honoré. Collectors came there by appointment, through the enormous bronze doors into the courtyard. Straight ahead was the main gallery, to the left the offices of Simon de Suvery, the owner. And to the right was his daughter's addition to the gallery, the contemporary wing. Behind the house was a large elegant garden filled with sculptures, mainly Rodins. Simon de Suvery had been there for more than forty years. His father, Antoine, had been one of the most important collectors in Europe, and Simon had been a scholar of Renaissance paintings and Dutch masters before opening the gallery. Now he was consulted by museums all over Europe, held in awe by private collectors, and admired although often feared by all who knew him.
Simon de Suvery was a daunting figure, tall, powerfully built, with stern features and dark eyes that pierced through you right to your soul. Simon had been in no hurry to get married. In his youth, he was too busy establishing his business to waste time on romance. At forty he had married the daughter of an important American collector. It had been a successful and happy union. Marjorie de Suvery had never involved herself directly in the gallery, which was well established before Simon married her. She was fascinated by it, and admired the work he showed. She loved him profoundly and had taken a passionate interest in everything he did. Marjorie had been an artist but never felt comfortable showing her work. She did genteel landscapes and portraits, and often gave them as gifts to friends. In truth, Simon had been affected but never impressed by her work. He was ruthless in his choices, merciless in his decisions for the gallery. He had a will of iron, a mind as sharp as a diamond, a keen business sense, and buried far, far beneath the surface, well concealed at all times, was a kind heart. Or so Marjorie said. Though not everyone believed her. He was fair to his employees, honest with his clients, and relentless in his pursuit of whatever he felt the gallery should have. Sometimes it took him years to acquire a particular painting or sculpture, but he never rested until it was his. He had pursued his wife, before their marriage, in much the same way. And once he had her, he kept her as a treasure—mostly to himself. He only socialized when he felt he had to, entertaining clients in one wing of the house.
They decided to have children late in their marriage. In fact it was Simon's decision, and they waited ten years to have a child. Knowing how Marjorie longed for children, Simon had finally acceded to her wishes, and was only mildly disappointed when Marjorie gave birth to a daughter and not a son. Simon was fifty when Sasha was born, and Marjorie thirty-nine. Sasha instantly became the love of her mother's life. They were constantly together. Marjorie spent hours with her, chortling and cooing, playing with her in the garden. She nearly went into mourning when Sasha began school, and they had to be apart. She was a beautiful and loving child. Sasha was an interesting blend of her parents. She had her father's dark looks and her mother's ethereal softness. Marjorie was an angelic-looking blonde with blue eyes, and looked like a madonna in an Italian painting. Sasha had delicate features like her mother, dark hair and eyes like her father, but unlike both her parents, Sasha was fragile and small. Her father used to tease her benevolently and say that she looked like a miniature of a child. But there was nothing small about Sasha's soul. She had the strength and iron will of her father, the warmth and gentle kindness of her mother, and the directness she learned early on from her father. She was four or five before he took serious notice of her, and once he did, all he spoke to her about was art. In his spare time, he would wander through the gallery with her, identifying paintings and masters, showing her their work in art books, and he expected her to repeat their names and even spell them, once she was old enough to write. Rather than rebelling, she drank it all in, and retained every shred of information her father imparted. He was very proud of her. And ever more