Verso

Is this what happens when you paint a palindrome?

This painting caught my eye recently. I love the idea of not being sure which way round to hang it.

The Reverse of a Framed Painting, and other trompe l’oeil by Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts (ca. 1670)The Public Domain Review
On Easter Sunday 1669, the diarist Samuel Pepys was bowled over by the ability of the Dutch painter Simon Verelst (1644-1710),

who took us to his lodging close by, and did shew us a little flower-pot of his doing, the finest thing that ever, I think, I saw in my life; the drops of dew hanging on the leaves, so as I was forced, again and again, to put my finger to it, to feel whether my eyes were deceived or no. He do ask 70l. for it: I had the vanity to bid him 20l.; but a better picture I never saw in my whole life; and it is worth going twenty miles to see it.

Around the time Peyps was poking the painting of Verelst, another northern European painter, Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts, was also causing confusion with the brush, creating his masterpiece known as The Reverse of a Framed Painting (ca. 1670), an image that is, to modern eyes at least, his most striking.

I love it, but I wonder how it was initially shown off. The gag would be wholly lost if this painting of a frame was itself framed. But weren’t all paintings framed?

I’ve been revisiting my post earlier in the week about the online worldwide Van Gogh exhibition. As well as high resolution scans of the actual paintings, the curators have documented the backs of them too — sturdy, wooden frames covered in gallery stickers. They remind me of airport tags on luggage.

Wheatfield with Crows was in Manchester? I would have loved to have seen that.