She sits quietly, on a plinth, with perfectly chiselled lines, strung like a Stradivarius.
I admired the natural knot and split in the curves. My digits itched for it.
Ooh the temptation.
It would not be the first time I’ve been told off for stroking sculptures. Security guards have something against it. Last time was in the cast gallery at the V&A. (It was a cast! Not even the real thing!).
I just want to feel the texture of the material, to touch what the artist touched. I want to know how it came into being and run my fingers over the rough and smooth of a masterpiece. Wood, stone, metal and marble, against skin.
Tactile sensation is one of my weirdnesses. From a very young age I wandered after Mother in M&S brushing coats, shirts and skirts with my sticky child hands. With age this expanded to include wood furniture, stone walls, expensive book covers and occasional trees.
I am still that annoying child. I still get told off.
There is nothing sexual about it and it is not every object. I passed, without incident, Epstein’s Jacob and the Angel, all mottled light pink and elephant heavy. I like it but it doesn’t make my fingers hungry like the rolling waves of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.
Neither do the classical features of a darkened brass ‘man wrestling snake’ and his naked marble friends. The fig leaves are off-puttingly small. Those poor muscular men having their marble chippers chopped off. Ouch.
No, the Modernists are much more enticing. I love the clean lines and shape.
But I’m on best behaviour in the Tate Britain. There’s a show I came to see and I’m lost amongst the past masters trying to find it. I have a mission! It would not do to get thrown out.
Look, don’t touch.
Fingerprints hurt the art. The pH levels and grease will ruin everything. The men in white gloves say so. They know these things.
Custodians and curators of these objects are cruel. Putting them on show at arms length. These sculptures are just aching to be caressed.
The rules are rules though.
So as I walked past Moore and Hepworth in the Walk Through I kept my childish hands firmly in my pockets.