Saturday, December 17, 2011

Trompe l'œil

trompe l'œil, n. /trɔ̃p lœj/
Also trompe-l'œil, erron. trompe-d'œil. [French, lit. ‘deceives the eye’]
Deception of the eye, an illusion, spec. in Art with regard to the material reality of the object(s) represented, a (usu. still-life) painting, plaster ornament, etc., intended to give an illusion of reality. Also fig. and attrib. passing into adj.

Each of these images meets the definition of "trompe l'oeil" above, and they are both examples of vanitas art. But they are very different. Not only were they created more than 400 years apart, one is a painting that looks like a photograph and the other is a photograph that looks like a painting! Have another look and read on...

1st image) "Vanitas," Simon Renard de Saint-André, c. 1662, oil on canvas.
Renard was a 17th c. French painter and copperplate engraver known for his vanitas paintings (more here), as was Harmen Steenwijck, Willem Claesz, and Bartholomäus Bruyn.

2nd image) "Le cabinet de l'astronome," Guido Mocafico, 2007, photograph. Mocafico, of Italian descent, was born in Switzerland in 1962 and lives in Paris. He specializes in still life, exploring aesthetic and scientific themes in nature, and does commercial work for magazines including Vogue and companies including Gucci, Dior, and Clinique. I first came across his work not from flipping through a fashion magazine, but seeing one of his jewel-like snake photos in National Geographic and using it to illustrate this post. The artist says of his still lifes (more here), "The day someone looking at my pictures asked me why I had photographed paintings, I knew my goal – illusion – had been achieved."

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