Madame Nanette took the vase carefully in her slender hands. It was a very valuable artifact that the elderly lady had purchased many years earlier at the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen in Paris.

ILLUSTRATIONS CHIARA GHIGLIAZZA STORY MARINA GERSONY

It was extremely delicate, made of fragile porcelain, as people's lives often are. While she was absorbed in the green and turquoise hues, she looked back on the war period, a nameless horror that had marked her forever. In her day she was young and beautiful with life ahead of her, but after the loss of her dearest affections, she had decided she would never marry. Her heart would not have stood up to other griefs and loneliness was the least of all evils. Nanette arrived in Italy pennyless but with a great desire to do something. In addition to her bare essentials, from France she had brought with her a magnificent Meissen porcelain dining set that had belonged to her family. She would have sold it and with the proceeds she could have supported herself for a some time.

It marked the beginning of a thriving trade in fine porcelain. Little by little, the young woman became one of the best known experts in this field and a reference point for the most important antique dealers in Europe. Educated, elegant and full of charm, Nanette enchanted anyone who was lucky enough to meet her. With experience she had learned to recognize every type of processing, the different techniques, the mixtures, the temperature, the porosity, the decorations, the phases and the cooking times ... after all, porcelain was nothing more than a compound deriving from ceramics, a centrifuge of minerals including kaolin, quartz and feldspar...

Nanette knew how to recognize at first sight the origin, the quality and the age of an object, she understood immediately if it was Chinese or European, whether of soft or hard paste; she knew how to distinguish with her eyes closed the different manufactures full of mysterious grace such as Meissen, Ginori, Capodimonte and Naples, Sèvres and Limoges, Royal Copenhagen and Bing & Grøndahl; Bone China and Wedgwood… For her it wasn't just a passion, it was an exciting game. Her own house was a feast of porcelain, a real museum of trinkets scattered almost everywhere: statues and figurines of every style and make, lamps, plates, of Italian and European origin, trays, frames, vases, bowls, oriental tea and coffee sets.

The bathroom, however was a real wonder: Nanette had built shelves in precious ebony up to the ceiling and when the sun was shining, filtering through the large windows, the light caressed her collection, reflecting the colours of a variegated world and one of a kind. Immersed in that magic, the elderly lady rediscovered herself and her past; the bathroom was the place that most corresponded to her secret nature, the container of the most significant and precious objects in her life, memories, moods, emotions and achievements. Before putting it back on the shelf, Nanette contemplated once more that iridescent vase she had bought in Paris many years before, while a faint smile crossed her beautiful old and serene face.