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The Cover
July 4, 2001

The Blue Envelope

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2001;286(1):13. doi:10.1001/jama.286.1.13

He was a wizard with the brush, tricking his viewers into believing that things that were not real, were. Like the fifth-century Greek Zeuxis, who painted grapes "so lively that birds did fly to eat them," or the 13th-century Italian Giotto, who painted a fly so realistically that Cimebue tried to brush it away, John Frederick Peto (1854-1907) could paint still lifes so realistically that viewers given to tidiness wanted to catch a precariously placed pen or wipe away ink spilled over the side of its container. Yet Peto lived in obscurity and poverty and remained virtually unknown for the first 50 years after his death. Ironically, toward the end of his life his works became popular, but only because an art dealer, who had earlier bought several, was now selling them under the name of the popular trompe-l'oeil painter William Michael Harnett (JAMA covers, December 1, 1975, April 6, 1979, and November 25, 1983) who had by then been dead for several years.

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