In-Paintingby Michael Salcman
Time has sandpapered this nose too much,
it needs repair: a thin skin
of burnt sienna and turpentine will do
to recapture the murk and shine
of Rembrandtean dark,
that physical mark of a simile
put there by mirror neurons firing
in a great artist’s brain.
Whatever we call such cellular activity, self-love
or empathy, Rembrandt had it in spades
and we have enough to think we see
a face painted by him as real as yours or mine.
This is why a conservator bends to his bench
working for hours—like an infant smiling
or a bird staring into a mirror—
hoping to save his imperfection in a perfect way:
beauty must have its flaw. He leaves behind
a few bristles trapped in Rembrandt’s paint.