Monday, July 02, 2007

Trompe l'oeil Then....

Trompe l'oeil is a French phrase which translates to "trick the eye", an apt term to describe this method of painting. The trompe l'oeil technique creates the illusion of three-dimensionality, thereby making an image look real. While there are a few examples of trompe l'oeil from Greek and Roman times, the technique did not gain popularity until the Renaissance when painters began to better understand perspective. Though it is most common to find trompe l'oeil employed by painters, this trick was also used by faience artisans to create lifelike fruits and vegetables. Even fashion designers found a place for trompe l'oeil in their designs. Elsa Schiaparelli, one of the 20th century's most innovative designers, created her iconic faux Bow Sweater, a look which designers still copy today.

(For some contemporary examples of trompe l'oeil, tune in for tomorrow's post.)

A "door" with a violin hanging from a knob. This 17th c. trompe l'oeil painting (oil on canvas) is attributed to Jan van der Vaart and is part of the collection at Chatsworth.

A Trompe l'oeil still life by Samuel van Hoogstraten, c. 1664 (collection of the Dordrechts Museum).

Asparagus faience platter, c. 1760-70. Part of the collection of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs.

Antique faience plate by J. Deutsch, circa 1774. Notice the trompe l'oeil piece of paper "resting on" a faux bois painted plate. (Plate is part of the collection of the Minneapolis Institue of Arts.)

Elsa Schiaparelli's iconic Bow Sweater from 1927.

Image at top: A trompe l'oeil painted gallery at Chateau de Tanlay, France. The architectural details are painted en grisaille and appear to be real.


  1. Love the Samuel van Hoogstraten still life.

  2. The violin looks SOOO real! These are beautiful images and I look forward to seeing your next post. There is something about the faux bois plate that is very appealing also

  3. wow. some of those are pretty amazing. i love that van hoogstraten still life too. i had a dress when i was a little girl that had the bow thing going on... except the main ground was orange with smiley faces. right on.

  4. How brilliant!

    I love the first image, I can't believe it is a flat painting. It looks like a photograph great post.


  5. Love Asparagus platter!