Trompe l’oeil (“tromp- loy”) is a French term meaning ‘trick of the eye’. Sometimes called illusionism, it’s a style of painting that gives the appearance of a three-dimensional or photographic realism. It flourished from the Renaissance onwards with the imposition of the door and window tax which was introduced in France during the Revolution.
The tax was based on the same ancient Roman practice known as the “ostarium,“ which was also related to doors and windows; the more windows and doors you had, the more taxes you paid. So in a bid to save money, well, builders just didn’t make those extra doors and windows, and property owners would brick them in on their existing buildings. This tax was finally cancelled in France in 1926, thankfully, but while the tax was a harsh measure and stunted the architectural design of common buildings, it left France and Italy with the gift of the art and beauty that may otherwise have not flourished.
Trompe l’oeil has existed since ancient Greece, and can be found throughout the art world in many forms, from paintings to interior décor, often hand painted and today, printed on wallpapers, from small to grand scales.
Today, France still makes grand use of Tromp l’oeil to beautify their public spaces, both modern and ancient, not out of necessity, but really as a means to bring joy, art and beauty to the public. These examples are by a particularly spectacular company called A-Fresco (definitely visit their website) that, with a huge team of artists, creates depictions of locally known characters and anecdotal events commemorating historical moments and figures. We think it’s all rather spectacular, so enjoy!