We want to be cautious about this. We don't want swarms of sweaty tourists disrupting the quiet, contemplative atmosphere of the National Gallery of Art. But in the name of journalistic responsibility we feel compelled to report the discovery of "The Miracle of Washington."

Other towns can keep their paintings of the Virgin Mary that cry. And their paintings of St. Francis that bleed. Let it now be known that Washington has a sculpture with a heartbeat.

It is a two-foot-tall bust titled "Thomas Fortune Ryan," created in 1909 by the great French artist Auguste Rodin, now on display in Gallery 17 on the ground floor of the West Wing.

Just approach the sculpture slowly, on its left, drawing your ear near its left shoulder. Yes! The sound is unmistakable.

Skeptics will no doubt point out that this noise must be the result of air currents rattling the sculpture, or some other natural phenomenon. But they miss the point.

From bronze, Rodin -- a mere mortal -- has created a likeness of a middle-aged man that produces an aural effect that sounds for all the world like the beating of a human heart. And even if the laws of physics can provide an explanation, is the aesthetic experience any less a miracle?