Design: Creating Grand Illusions

Muralist Richard Haas evokes the Baroque on blank city walls

The ancient Greek painters Zeuxis and Parrhasius vied, according to legend, to see who could produce the most realistic painting. Zeuxis illustrated grapes so lifelike that birds swooped down and tried to eat them. Parrhasius outdid him, however, by fashioning a curtain that Zeuxis, mistaking for fabric, attempted to pull open. A long line of artists have since striven to equal Parrhasius' success by bestowing an illusory third dimension to flat, featureless walls and ceilings. Known as trompe l'oeil (fool the eye), the style reached its prime in the Renaissance and during the Baroque period, when painters embellished churches and palaces...

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