Two Laughing Girls, Pere Borrell del Caso; oil on canvas, roughly 27 x 27 inches (69 x 69 cm); link is to Wikimedia Commons, original is in the Museu del Modernisme Catalá, Barcelona.
Spanish painter Pere Borrell del Caso, who was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is known for his trompe-l’œil paintings, in which the subjects are not only rendered realistically, but come forward with a dimensionality that seems to break the picture plane.
Though not his most dramatic or well known trompe-l’œil painting (which is Escaping Criticism), this one is my favorite, perhaps because it’s more subtle.
The painting of the girl’s faces — one highlighted, the other entirely in shadow, who appear to be looking directly at the viewer — is engaging enough. The relationship of their faces in light and dark already gives the painting depth.
The values of the dark and light faces are emphasized by the tone gradient behind them, light behind dark and dark behind light. The dimensionality is accentuated by the right hand of the girl in shadow, which is reaching forward into the light and pointing out at the viewer.
What kicks it over the top into trompe-l’œi eye candy is the sleeve and elbow of the girl in front.
Although the sleeve is dark compared to the rest of the figure, which keeps us from focusing on it right away, once we notice that it is apparently projecting out of the frame, resting on the edge and casting a shadow on it, we’re pulled into that wonderful uncertainty of what is real and what isn’t, which tickles the brain and is part of the joy of trompe-l’œi.
On closer examination, you can see that the inner ring of the frame, the same color and just as elaborately decorative as the rest of it, is false — part of the painting and not part of the actual frame.