Skip to content
Private collection

Trompe l’oeil Cat Desk

In 1984 I got the chance to go on a little tour of Italy looking at intarsia panels with an American couple. They had written an article on the subject that caught my eye. It was in Scientific American, of all places. They wrote about perspective drawing and how it was used in the intarsia woodwork. Our tour took us to a new site or two every day for a week. I saw panels in small churches and big cathedrals. I got to see the Fra Giovanni (see earlier post) pictures in Monte Oliveto Maggiore, which was particularly exciting because I had only seen a black and white photo of the work before then.

When I got home I was fired up to try some trompe l’oeil panels, looking like open cupboards.

This fall front desk is one of the first pieces to come out of that exploration. The front is flat. There are no doors, no books, no cat.

One of the things I had seen in Italy that I wanted to incorporate was to “break” the picture plane by making things appear to protrude out of the frame. Giovanni did it and so did Barili (see earlier post). So the cat’s tail hangs in front of the case and over the (non-existent) drawer. There is important use of cast shadows to accent the illusion. I also used the look of frame and panel doors which required two different sets of veneers; one lighter than the medium toned mahogany of the case, depicting the door with the light to appearing to shine on it, and one darker for the door in the shade.

Back To Top