Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Trompe l’Oeil


View of the Trompe l'Oeil exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

View of the Trompe l’Oeil exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

Trompe l’oeil, an art technique that refers to the optical illusion of the third dimension through painterly two-dimensional works of realistic imagery, has its origins in the ancient frescoes and mosaics. Trompe l’oeil has remained a constant in the works of ancient, Renaissance, and modern artists and continues to fascinate today even if the taste for figurative compositions has fallen out of favor with contemporary artists.

A fascinating account of the history of the technique has been on display at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and will be available to the public through January 5, 2014. Rather than a strictly historical approach to the exploration of the subject, the curators organized a varied compilation of works (meant to confuse, entertain, and mesmerize the viewer) around a series of themes. For example, European works of the 18th and 19th centuries “in the manner of” other cultures are grouped together as are painterly attempts to mask architectural interiors and make them appear as something entirely different. There is an entire section dedicated to dioramas of the 19th century as well as one filled with contemporary product designs made to look as if made of natural materials (when in fact they are not).

The variety of the products/artworks exhibited is dizzying. The exhibit alludes to the poignant conclusion that the impeccable painterly technique of trompe l’oeil continuous to appeal to us aesthetically today in spite of conceptual art’s dominance in the marketplace.

© Thomaï Serdari