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The Cover
October 24/31, 2007

The Poor Man’s Store

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2007;298(16):1838. doi:10.1001/jama.298.16.1838

John Frederick Peto (1854-1907) was a humble man who painted humble objects. He chose the worn, the tattered, and the commonplace, things so ordinary that to most eyes they had grown virtually invisible. When placed in his perspective, old letters, commercial signs, bits of torn paper, keys, musical instruments, books, children's toys became extraordinary signs, sacramentals of the often taken-for-granted activities of daily human life. Peto painted in a style known as trompe l’oeil, a manner in which objects are rendered in such meticulous detail and careful perspective that the viewer's eye is deceived into believing that they may be touched, picked up, even moved to another place. Although trompe l’oeil painting has been around since at least the time of the ancient Greeks, the term itself (literally, “deceive the eye”) was coined only in the late 19th century. The 17th-century Dutch flower painters, who liked to add insects to their bouquets, were especially good at the deception. Today the style might be called Photorealism.

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