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.
See also: Trompe l'oeil (part 2)
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Architectural styles.
- Arts and craft movement.
- Baroque architecture.
- Classical orders in architecture.
- Elements of classical columns.
- English architectural stylistic periods.
- Large-scale murals.
- Nineteenth century architecture.
- Polite architecture.
- Stained glass.
- The architectural profession.
- Trompe l'oeil (part 2)
- Vernacular architecture.
‘Structures and structural failure’ at IHBC’s Nottingham School, with Ed Morton (ex Canterbury, York and Westminster to St Paul’s) and John Ruddy.
Ageing gracefully - restorations which retain historical decay.