by Floris M. Kleijne
A good crowd today. Not the suffocating masses of a holiday, nor the unnerving quiet of a Tuesday morning in February. An art student is earnestly sketching. A group of Japanese tourists take turns posing with me, fingers forked in an incomprehensible gesture that sometimes even hides me from the lens. An elderly couple stands quietly, arms entwined, contemplating me with identical mournful gazes. Behind them, the south hallway of the Denon wing stretches. As always, I am pleased to note that no one walks by without making the turn into my room. Perhaps as many as three dozen pairs of eyes stare at me, mesmerized.
And none of them know who I am.
I shouldn't look so smug.
But I can't help myself.
"I will make you famous," he had said, all those centuries ago. "I will immortalize you, cara. Never to age, never to lose that heart-wrenching beauty." He was a smooth talker, but aren't all artists? They will say anything to convince you to pose. And he knew me too well, knew how I treasured my youth, knew how I feared losing my treasure. "You will never fade. People will never cease to marvel at your mystery, never stop pondering the magic of your smile."