“Artnica” by Jacques Poirier, 1997 (Photo: Collection of Ian M. Cumming)

All figurative art contains an element of trompe l’oeil, while the essence of the “true” trompe l’oeil is that it sets out to deceive us into believing that the objects we are seeing are not the result of artifice but real.

The fifth-century B.C. artist Zeuxis, so the story goes, painted grapes so life-like that birds flew down to peck at them. But even such an artist as Zeuxis was fooled by his rival Parrhasius: When Zeuxis tried to push aside the cloth covering one of Parrhasius’s paintings the trompe-l’oeil fabric turned out to be the painting itself.

“Art and Illusions: Masterpieces of Trompe l’Oeil From Antiquity to the Present Day” at the Palazzo Strozzi here presents a thought-provoking array of more than 150 works from Roman frescoes to contemporary works that to varying degrees force “the limits of verisimilitude,” in the words of its curator, Annamaria Giusti.


Roderick Conway Morris
New York Times