History in Trompe-l'il
Although the phrase has its origin in the Baroque period, when it refers to perspectival illusionism, use of trompe-l'il dates back much further. It was (and is) often employed in murals. Instances from Greek and Roman times are known, for instance in Pompeii. A typical trompe-l'il mural might depict a window, door, or hallway, intended to suggest a larger room.
A version of an oft-told ancient Greek story concerns a contest between two renowned painters. Zeuxis produced a still life painting so convincing, that birds flew down from the sky to peck at the painted grapes. He was then asked by his rival, Parrhasius, to pull back a pair of very tattered curtains in order to see the painting behind them. Parrhasius won the contest, as his painting was the curtains themselves.
With the superior understanding of perspective drawing achieved in the Renaissance, Italian painters of the late Quattrocento such as Andrea Mantegna and Melozzo da Forlì began painting illusionistic ceiling paintings, generally in fresco, that employed perspective and techniques such as foreshortening in order to give the impression of greater space to the viewer below. This type of trompe l'il illusionism as specifically applied to ceiling paintings is known as di sotto in sù, meaning from below, upward in Italian. The elements above the viewer are rendered as if viewed from true vanishing point perspective. Well-known examples are the Camera degli Sposi in Mantua and Antonio da Correggio's Assumption of the Virgin in the Duomo of Parma.
Similarly, Vittorio Carpaccio and Jacopo de' Barbari, added small trompe-l'il features to their paintings, playfully exploring the boundary between image and reality. For example, a fly might appear to be sitting on the painting's frame, or a curtain might appear to partly conceal the painting, a piece of paper might appear to be attached to a board, or a person might appear to be climbing out of the painting altogetherall in reference to Zeuxis and Parrhasius.