Last edited 10 Jan 2022

Trompe l’oeil


Trompe l’oeil is the term used for a technique that creates the illusion of reality. It is French for ‘fool the eye’ or ‘deceive the eye’. It has long been used by artists for paintings and murals, but can also be found in architecture where walls, ceilings, domes and other surfaces are painted with designs that ‘trick’ the observer into seeing other features such as windows, columns, stonework, ornaments and so on.

The first instance of trompe l’oeil perspective techniques being used in architecture can be found in the medieval period, but it became increasingly common during the Renaissance. Artists were often employed to paint the inside of churches, to give walls the appearance of decorative features, columns, windows, views and so on. Perhaps the most famous example of the technique is Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

The technique is also found in the design of stage sets where forced perspective can be used to give the impression that the stage is deeper than it is.


See also: Trompe l'oeil (part 2)

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings

[edit] External references

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again