There she was, looking over her shoulder directly at me across the gallery. I walked toward her, was drawn toward her, really. I craned my neck to get a closer look, nearly eye to eye with one of the most famous paintings in the world, Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Tiny cracks in the painting’s centuries-old façade create an overall web across its surface. But the brightness of the Girl’s eyes shine through the painting’s age, their exactitude simultaneously piercing and elusive.
Soft and somehow limitless, her lips are ephemeral in the paint. From a distance, they exude youth and sensuality, but up close they defy definition.
My eyes tracked down to the pearl, only to find a dab of white paint and nearly nothing else. I looked again, searching for the painting’s titular element, but like her lips, up close the Girl’s pearl is impossibly immaterial. Step back, however, and the earring immediately comes into focus, pearlescent and solid.
—Sarah Bailey Hogarty