The painting—a stunningly ambitious tableau, eight feet high, fully twenty-four feet long, and portraying twelve mostly naked figures, as visioned from above, arrayed, recumbent, one beside the next, knotted up in sheets and tossed by sleep (or maybe unconscious, or maybe even dead, it was hard to tell)—had been one of the stand-out triumphs of Vincent Desiderio’s singularly impressive show at Manhattan’s Marlborough Gallery in January 2004. Despite its forbiddingly unwieldy dimensions, the piece had sold off the floor, to a private museum in Connecticut, on condition, however, that Desiderio would first be allowed to take the canvas back with him to his Ossining studio. For all its highly burnished finish, the work had been listed as still “in progress” in the exhibition’s catalog. And now, over a year later, with its new owners clamoring for the painting’s already frequently postponed final delivery, it was still very much a work in progress, changing dramatically from day to day. Dramatically, and yet hardly at all: for Desiderio had achieved one of those images of such layered complexity and tautly interwoven cross-reference that the slightest tweak—here, say, the new way light was being made to fall across this woman’s shoulder, or there, the manner in which that man’s arm had been stretched ever so slightly higher—reverberated across the entire panel, as if across a tightly stretched drum skin.