The Portrait of a Lady
How we cite our quotes:
… [Osmond] perceived a new attraction in the idea of taking to himself a young lady who had qualified herself to figure in his collection of choice objects by declining so noble a hand… It would be proper that the woman he might marry should have done something of that sort. (28.13)
Isabel’s rarity and unusual strength appeal to Osmond, the way a particular detail or artist’s touch might make him desire an object. He looks at people and art the same way, and this attitude doesn’t bode well for any of his relationships.
She only felt older – ever so much, and as if she were "worth more" for it, like some curious piece in an antiquary's collection. (32.1)
Isabel’s age and experience make her feel as though she’s a better person – and not just a better person, but also a more valuable piece of art. Under Osmond’s influence, she’s also beginning to see herself in this menacing light.
"He's the incarnation of taste," Ralph went on, thinking hard how he could best express Gilbert Osmond's sinister attributes without putting himself in the wrong by seeming to describe him coarsely. He wished to describe him impersonally, scientifically. "He judges and measures, approves and condemns, altogether by that."
"It's a happy thing then that his taste should be exquisite."
"It's exquisite, indeed, since it has led him to select you as his bride. But have you ever seen such a taste – a really exquisite one – ruffled?" (34.13)
Ralph hits upon the truth here: Osmond’s exquisite taste is what directs all of his actions, but it’s not to be confused with real, passionate emotion.