REMPS, Domenico
(c. 1620-c. 1699)

Cabinet of Curiosities

c. 1689
Oil on shaped canvas, 99 x 137 cm
Museo dell'Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence

This trompe-l'oeil painting representing a cabinet of curiosities blurs the boundary between real and fictitious space.

Trompe-l'oeil, the French term for "eye-deceiver," is a modern word for an old phenomenon: a three-dimensional "perception" provoked by a flat surface, for a puzzling moment of insecurity and reflection. The early precursors of modern trompe l'oeil appeared during the Renaissance, with the discovery of mathematically correct perspective. But the fooling of the eye to the point of confusion with reality only emerged with the rise of still-life painting in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Though highly esteemed by collectors, from the beginning art theorists often dismissed trompe-l'oeil as the lowest category of art, seeing it as a mere technical tour-de-force that did not require invention or intellectual thought. In the 17th century, trompe-l'oeil masters were not only receiving praise and recognition from many quarters but also pushing the boundaries of the genre.

Domenico Remps, a painter of German origin, active in Italy, was a master of this genre.