Every painting is always two paintings: the one you see and the one you remember, which is also to say that every painting worth talking about reveals itself over time and takes on its own story inside the viewer. With Vermeer’s work that story probably lasts as long as the person who sees it. This is my own unfinished story of looking at one of his paintings. Before I walked through the doors of the National Gallery of Art in Washington to look at its historic gathering of twenty-one of Vermeer’s works, I was paging through the catalogue and turned to Woman with a Pearl Necklace. I had never seen the original, although I had admired it in reproduction many times, but suddenly, for reasons I didn’t fully understand, this painting of a woman holding up a necklace in the light of a window jumped out at me, and I walked into the museum already in its grip.