Art for the Nation    
The Old ViolinWilliam Harnett, Trompe l'Oeil MasterPainting Money  
Trompe l'Oeil William Harnett  

The Old Violin by William Harnett
William Michael Harnett, The Old Violin, 1886, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Mellon Scaife in honor of Paul Mellon 1993.15.1

The Old Violin

The public was fascinated by The Old Violin, the somber trompe l'oeil still life created by William Harnett in 1886. People would reach out to touch the violin or try to grasp the envelope to determine if the objects were real or painted. Thanks to a widely distributed chromolithograph, The Old Violin would become an icon of American art, inspiring a group of illusionist painters—including John F. Peto—to make their own versions.

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