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
Title
  • 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, 1929, p. 266, pl. 111 (ill.). [as in a private collection, also see 1937 edition]

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

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

Richardson, Edgar P. "Samuel van Hoogstraten and Carel Fabritius." Art in America 25, no. 4 (1937): 140–152, pp. 140–144 (ill.).

Old and New "Trompe l'Oeil." Exh. cat., Julian Levy Gallery. New York, 1938, unpaginated, no 59.

Richardson, E.P., ed. The Detroit Institute of Arts, Catalogue of Paintings. Detroit, 1944, p. 64, no. 570.

Born, Wolfgang. Still-Life Painting in America. New York, 1947, pp. xi, 5, 60.

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

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

Rembrandt and his Pupils. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh, 1956, pp. 34, 120, cat. 48 (ill.).

The Art that Broke the Looking-Glass. Exh. cat., Dallas Museum for Contemporary Art. Dallas, 1961, p. 51, cat. 51 (ill.).

Fetes de la Palette: An exhibition of European paintings and decorative arts from the mid-sixteenth through the mid-eighteenth century dedicated to the "Delights of the Bountiful Table." Exh. cat., Isaac Delgado Museum of Art. New Orleans, 1964, unpaginated, cat. 37, pl. 62 (ill.).

Paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts: A Check List of the Paintings Acquired Before June, 1965. Detroit, 1965, p. 53.

Koslow, Susan. "De wonderlijke Perspectyfkas: An Aspect of Seventeenth Century Dutch Painting." Oud Holland 82, no. 1/2 (1967): 35–56, pp. 35, 40, 43, note 14; pp. 46, 53, no. 4. (ill.).

Rembrandt and his Pupils. Exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Montreal, 1969, pp. 42, 95–96, cat. 74 (ill.).

Myers, Bernard S., ed. Encyclopedia of Painting: Painters and Painting of the World from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day. New York, 1970, p. 239, pl. 100 (ill.).

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

Leeman, Fred. Hidden Images: Games of Perception • Anamorphic Art • Illusion from the Renaissance to the Present. New York, 1975, pp. 83–84, 97–99, pls. 83–89 (ill). [see also French language version, Dutch language version]

Liedtke, Walter A. "The 'View in Delft' by Carel Fabritius." Burlington Magazine 118, no. 875 (February 1976): 61–73, pp. 65, 70.

Kenseth, Joy, ed. The Age of the Marvelous. Exh. cat., Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College. Hanover, NH, 1991, p. 180 (ill.).

Brusati, Celeste. Artifice and Illusion: The Art and Writing of Samuel van Hoogstraten. Chicago, 1995, pp. 97, 99, 175–177, 191, pl. VII (ill.); p. 294, note 109; p. 364.

Henshaw, Julia, ed. A Visitor's Guide: The Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1995, p. 199 (ill.).

Stafford, Barbara Maria and Frances Terpak. Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles, 2001, pp. 237–238, fig. 76 (ill.), p. 375, no. 125.

Ebert-Schifferer, Sybille. Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. Washington, D. C., 2002, pp. 78, 87, 274–277, cat. 72 (ill.).

Jensen, Claus. "Perspektivkasser og matematik." Matilde 19, no. 3 (March 2004): 20–25, pp. 20.

Keyes, George S. et al. Masters of Dutch Painting: The Detroit Institute of Arts. London, 2004, pp. 120–123, no. 48 (ill.).

Keyes, George S. "A Brief History of the European Paintings Collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts with a Focus on the Dutch School." In The European Fine Art Fair Handbook. Maastricht, 2005, p. 14.

Spencer, Justina. "Illusion as ingenuity: Dutch perspective boxes in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer’s 'Perspective Chamber'" Journal of the History of Collections 30, no. 2 (2018): 187–201, p. 189.