Art Girls of the World

In the Borghese Gallery in Rome, she sits cross-legged on the floor sketching a Titian. She’s been sitting there all day with her drafting pad and charcoal pencils, working furiously. She wears a black sweater, long skirt, and leather boots, round tortoise-shell glasses, pulls back her long curly tresses and ties them up in a bun with a look of quiet determination. It is late now. Pencil between her teeth, she frowns and looks up, waits for a straggler to pass by. When he has moved on, she resumes her sketching, as a security guard enters the room — fifteen minutes until closing time. She will be back in the morning. When the doors open she is always there.

Their eyes inspire you to take another, closer, look.Across the eternal city in the Palazzo Nuovo, her blonde sister sits before the Capitoline Venus, hurriedly completing details as the matron guard stands by checking her watch sternly. The scene repeats itself in the Prado in Madrid, the Uffizi in Florence, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Louvre in Paris — art girls of the world. Two girls in gold-trimmed headscarves sketching sarcophagus reliefs in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Japanese girls doing the same in Berlin. Czech girls drafting Mucha posters; Spanish girls copying Picasso.

They are always oddly pretty these art school girls, prettier than the icy, glamorous attendants who walk the halls of the Prado. You want to talk to them, see the pictures through their eyes, but it would be wrong to break the silence. You would only come between them and their true love. Their eyes inspire you to take another, closer, look. But you are just an interloper. The museum belongs to them.

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