Produced in Holland during a twenty-five-year period beginning about 1650, the perspective box is an artistic application of linear perspective to create an optical illusion. The illusion is created when the viewer looks into the pentagonal box through a peephole and perceives the painted interior as three-dimensional. Light to the interior is supplied by the reflecting mirror. The images incorporate several themes characteristic of Dutch paintings in the late seventeenth century: genre, still life, architectural views, and symbols of the vanity of earthly pleasures. The Detroit box is one of only six extant perspective boxes.
Artist attributed to Samuel van Hoogstraten, Dutch, 1627-1678
  • Perspective Box of a Dutch Interior
Date 1663
Medium oil, mirror, and walnut
Dimensions Overall: 16 1/2 × 11 7/8 × 11 1/8 inches (41.9 × 30.2 × 28.3 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, General Membership Fund
Accession Number 35.101
Department European Painting
On View Dutch Golden Age S380, Level 3 (see map)
Inscriptions Inscribed, background center, over doorway: MEMENTO MORI
[Latin translates: remember that you will die]
by 1928, Private Collection (possibly dealer, J. Mellaert (London, England);
1933, J. Goudstikker (Amsterdam, Netherlands);
1934, Gebroeders Douwes (Amsterdam, Netherlands);
1935-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Wilenski, R. H. An Introduction to Dutch Art. London, 1928, p. 266 (pl. 111). [as private collection]

Catalogue der Tentoonstelling "Het Stilleven. Exh. cat., Galerie J. Goudstikker. Amsterdam, 1933, cat. 160 (unpaginated).

Catalogus der Tentoonstelling van Oude Schilderijen. Exh. cat., Kunsthandel Gebr. Douwes. Amsterdam, 1934, p. 18, cat. 35.

Richardson, E. P. "Samuel van Hoogstraten and Carel Fabritius." Art in America 25 (1937): pp. 141-152 (figs. 1, 2).

Trompe l'Oeil. Julian Levy Gallery. New York, 1938, no 59.

Richardson, E. P., ed. Catalogue of Paintings. Detroit, 1944, p. 64 (no. 570).

Born, W. Still Life Painting in America. New York, 1947, pp. xi, 51, 60.

Illusionism and Trompe l'Oeil. Exh. cat., California Palace of the Legion of Honor. San Francisco, 1949, p. 55 (repro.).

Life in Seventeenth Century Holland. Exh. cat.,Wadsworth Atheneum. Hartford, 1950-1951, p. 26, cat. 66, (repro.).

Rembrandt and his Pupils. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh, 1956, cat. 48.

The Art that Broke the Looking Glass. Exh. cat., Dallas Museum for Contemporary Art. Dallas, 1961, cat. 51.

Fetes de la Palette. Exh. cat., Isaac Delgado Museum. New Orleans, 1962-1963, cat. 37 (pl. 62).

Rembrandt and his Pupils. Exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Montreal, 1969, pp. 95-96, cat. 74 (repro.).

Myers, B. S., ed. Encyclopedia of Painting. New York, 1970, p. 239 (pl. 100).

Walsh, J. Jr. "Vermeer." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 31, no. 4 (Summer 1973): unpaginated, fig. 36 (ill.).

Anamorfosen/Anamorphoses. Exh. cat., Rijksmuseum. Amsterdam, 1975-1976, cat. 16 (pls. 33-34). [as anonymous Dutch 1662/63. This show subsequently traveled to Boston, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington and Atlanta. On this American tour the Peep Box only went to Boston, MFA, Sept. 22-Nov. 29, 1976]

Leeman, F. Anamorphosen. Ein Spiel mit der Warhnehmung, dem Schein und der Werklichkeit. Cologne, 1975, pp. 82–89 (ill.).

_________. Hidden Images Games of Perception Anamorphic Art. Illusion from the Renaissance to the Present. New York, pp. 83-84 (pls. 83-89) [translated from the German edition]

Liedtke, W. A. "The ‘View in Delft’ by Carel Fabritius." Burlington Magazine 118 (1976): pp. 61-73.

Koslow, S. "De wonderlijke Perspectyfkas: An Aspect of Seventeenth Century Dutch Painting." Oud Holland 82 (1987): pp. 35-56 (repro.).

The Age of the Marvelous. Exh. cat., Dartmouth College, Hood Museum of Art. Hanover, NH, 1991, p. 180 (fig. 1). [with incorrect caption]

Brusati, C. Artifice and Illustion, The Art and Writing of Samuel van Hoogstraten. Chicago, 1995, pp. 97, 175, 364 (no. 87, figs. 58, 59, 124-126, pl. VII).

Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles, 2001-2002, pp. 237, 375, , cat. 125 (fig. 76) [exh. organized by B. M. Stafford & F. Terpak]

Deceptions and Illusions Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D. C., 2002-2003, pp. 274-277, cat. 72 (repro.). [as attributed to Samuel van Hoogstraten; entry by A. K. Wheelock, Jr.; Exh. organized by S. Ebert-Schifferer]

Jensen, C. "Perspektivkasser og matematik." Matilde 19 (March 2004): p. 20-25.

Masters of Dutch Painting: The Detroit Institute of Arts. London, 2004, pp. 120-123. [entry by A. K. Wheelock, Jr.]

Keyes, G.S. "A Brief History of the European Paintings Collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts with a Focus on the Dutch School." TEFAF Maastricht (2005): pp. 10-15.