Illusion, Delusion, Collusion, and Perceptual Paradox (page 2)
Illusion, Delusion, Collusion, and Perceptual Paradox
Fig.6.3 Carlo Crivelli (attrib.), Two
saints (1480-5). The National Gallery, London.
A trompe l'œil painting
of the first kind looks like a painting; a delusory representation
is superimposed on a painting that is taken by the viewer to be just that
- a painting. I group these paintings under the rubric of extrinsic
trompe l’œil. There are two subgroups in this class. First,
there are paintings in which an element foreign to the painting is painted
to look like a foreign element. For instance, Carlo Crivelli's Saints
Catherine of Alexandria and Mary Magdalene (see Figure 6.3), shows a
fly on the left-hand niche5. We may say that such paintings are
trompe l'œil of an adventitious element (e.g. the fly). The second
sort of extrinsic trompe l’œil is a play on the viewer's
expectations regarding the frame or framing elements.6 There
is a whole class of Roman trompe l'oeuil mosaics that could be included here.
I have one with the artist's signature on parchment held by wax that is curling
up from the floor(in the mosaic) For example, Antonello da Messina,
in his Salvatore Mundi (Figure 6.4), painted a cartellino
(little card), a trompe l'œil representation of parchment bearing
an inscription. As Marie-Louise d'Otrange Mastai (1975) has pointed out, Artonello's
use of the cartellino is in keeping with the earlier device used
by portrait painters: Sometimes they would paint an incised inscription on
the parapet or sill in the foreground that creates the impression that the
subject of the portrait is very close to the picture plane. An example is
Jan van Eyck's Portrait of a Young Man (Figure 6.5). Eventually,
when the parapet was abandoned, whenever the cartellino was retained, it became
more thoroughly trompe l'œil by appearing to be pasted on the
surface of the painting itself. One such case is Francisco de Zurbarán's
Saint Francis(Figure 6.6). Another use of framing elements for the
purposes of trompe l'œil is the representation of a broken glass
in front of the painting. An example is a painting by Laurent Dabos (Figure
Fig.6.4 Antonello da Messina, Salvatore Mundi (1465).
The National Gallery, London
Fig.6.5 Jan van Eyck, Portrait of a Young Man (1432).
The National Gallery, London
Fig.6.6 Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis
in Meditation (1639). The National Gallery, London
Fig.6.7 Laurent Dabos, Peace Treaty between France and
Spain (after 1801). Musée Marmottan, Paris
Fig.6.8 Jacob de Wit, Food and Clothing
of Orphans (1728)..
The second class of trompe l'œil
paintings, if successful, are not read as paintings at all. I consider them
instances of intrinsic trompe l’œil. They fall
into three categories: (1) simulated texture or relief, (2) simulated objects
or settings, and (3) display boards.
To simulate a bas relief or a texturesculpture
one needs for the most part to work in monochrome. When gray stone is to be
simulated, the technique is called grisaille (the term comes from
gris, the French for gray). If the material is not gray - such as
bronze, terra-cotta, onyx, marble, or wood - a trompe l'œil painting
that simulates any of them is called camaïeu.7 Figure
6.8 shows an example of this technique.
5 Two other examples of trompe l' il flies: Portrait
of the Artistand His Wife by the Master of Frankfurt, and Madonna
and Child by Adriaen Isenbrandt in the Akademie der bildended Künste,
Vienna (see Mastai, 1975, p. 87).
6 On the cognitive psychology of explicit and implicit frames that
provide structure to our experience in society, see Goffman (1974).
7 This French word once was synonymous with cameo, but its meaning
became restricted in the early eighteenth century.