This tabletop arrangement of a simple earthenware jug, a burnt candle, and a few tattered books evokes the retrospective mood that permeated American culture at the end of the nineteenth century. The objects were favorite motifs of John Frederick Peto, a close friend and colleague of William Michael Harnett. Peto considered Harnett’s work “the standard of perfection in still life” and modeled his own trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) paintings on the elder artist’s illusionism. In fact, their works were often confused with one another until the mid twentieth century. Some unscrupulous dealers even signed Peto’s paintings with Harnett’s name, passing them off as works by the better known artist.