Visiting the Mauritshuis today to see the 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' for real (as reality follows blog posts these days), I was struck by that other Vermeer, hanging across the room from her, which provided one answer to the question of what the girl is looking at so longingly. It's the 'View of Delft'.
As the great Vermeer website tells us:
Marcel Proust's 'À la recherche du temps perdu' contains a well-known passage in which the elderly writer Bergotte visits a Dutch art exhibit and, while examining a detail of Vermeer's 'View of Delft', falls ill and dies.
The still unsolved question is, which "petit pan de mur jaune" ("little patch of yellow wall") in the painting proved lethal to Proust's character...?