DETAIL IN FOCUS

A 17th-Century Optical Illusion

Real or representation?

In the Treasury Office (Thesaurie Ordinaris) of the Royal Palace Amsterdam hangs a trompe l’oeil ("trick the eye") painting showing a variety of papers, letters, notes, drawings and moneybags – items you would expect to find in the office of the city’s financial controllers. The various accounts, all properly ordered and labelled, hang from eight pegs. The table that used to stand in front of the painting would have reinforced the trompe l’oeil effect. At that time, there would probably have also been real bundles of papers hanging from wall pegs.

TREASURERS' PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS, 1656, Cornelis Brizé, Dutch, oil paint on wood panel (collection: Royal Palace Amsterdam)

The painting has moved several times in the past 200 years. When the Amsterdam Town Hall was converted into a royal palace in 1808, the city administration moved to the Prinsenhof on Oudezijds Voorburgwal and this painting went with it. In 1906 it ended up in the Stedelijk Museum and was subsequently transferred from there to the present-day Amsterdam Museum. In 1996 the painting was returned to its originally intended location: the former Treasury Ordinary in the Royal Palace Amsterdam.

Detail view of TREASURERS' PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS, 1656, Cornelis Brizé (collection: Royal Palace Amsterdam)
Credits: All media
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