An Italian love story that’s not what you expect…

I am recently back from a fantastic break in Rome from where I posted a couple of teaser pictures on Jeffreys' Instagram to brighten up your overcast Edinburgh days! I do not lie when I say I spent the entire week with my head arched so far back that I actually got cramp – but it was here that I truly fell in love with the artist's technique that is known as Trompe–l’oeil. 

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this term, it is when an artist cleverly uses perspective to create an optical illusion in which the 2D image is transformed into a three-dimensional piece. A typical trompe-l’oeil tends to depict a window, door or hallway. The technique became very popular in association with interior architecture, none more famously known than in the Vatican City’s Sistine Chapel. 


Perspective is such an important tool in the design world and being able to draw it is a skill we practice. A widespread fascination with this type of drawing began in the Renaissance and Italian painters took to the ceilings, generally in fresco and began employing techniques such as foreshortening to create an impression of greater space for the viewer below. This is known as “di sotto in su” meaning “from below, upward” in Italian. 

I have to say it wasn’t Michelangelo’s Sistene Chapel that began my love story, it was Andrea Pozzo’s grandiose fresco that stretches across the nave ceiling in Saint Ignatius Basilica that I happened to literally fall over on our first day. A quiet basilica set down a smaller street, it isn’t mentioned as a tourist hotspot – however, it should be top of your visit list should you be travelling to Rome. 

Typically, the Basilica’s throughout Rome are adorned with a large dome and, from the inside, Saint Ignatius is no different. Pozzos’ incredible attention to detail on the center detail of the Trompe l’oeil creates the illusion of exactly this – that is until you observe the interior from the east or west nave. The cupola one expects to see here was never built and in its place, Andrea Pozzo supplied a painting on canvas with a perspectival projection of a cupola. Destroyed in 1891, the painting was subsequently replaced. The effect is most impressive.

Top Tips:

  1. Follow TheGladiatorGuide on Instagram; if you can find him, book onto his “secret Rome” tour in the early evening. 
  2. Find Saint Ignatius Basilica 
  3. Book your underground Coliseum tour pre visit


By Jo Aynsley