The unique "Trompe-l'Oeil Still Life" (1666/78) by Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-1678) deserves particular attention. Born in Dordrecht in 1627, the artist studied with Rembrandt around 1642. After working periods in Vienna, Italy, and London, he attained double recognition: as an art writer, and above all, as the master of delightful "Ouodlibets" or "Trompe l'œil" still life paintings.
The marvellous example in Karlsruhe is more than a highly virtuosic showpiece of illusionism, warning us of the traps of perception and the errors of the senses. It is also more than a deceptively realistic representation of randomly fixed objects in a still life. Rather, we see things that offer a very personal insight into their owner, Samuel van Hoogstraten. For example, behind the leather straps, which are horizontally span- ned across the panel, is a book with the title, "Dorothee" and the subtitle "Treurspel", or "Tragedy", as well as two booklets on the "Roomsche Pauline", or "Pauline from Rome". Both are works from the quill (also shown in the painting) of the literarily inclined artist himself.
A piece of writing at the upper right of the painting refers to Hoogstraten's abilities: Here, an anecdote is told, in which Emperor Ferdinand III was once fooled by such a "trompe l'œil" painting by the master. Below, a medallion with a portrait of the ruler hangs on a chain. It was awarded to van Hoogstraten in Vienna for his accomplishments. With the help of these items, the painter has arranged a type of self-portrait. The ivory capsule, which would usually have contained a portrait, also alludes to this aspect of amusingly refined ambiguity in the painting.