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Collier was particularly noted for his trompe l'oeil pictures, or 'deceptions', which were painted to impress the viewer with the artist's ability to create in paint the illusion of real, graspable objects. The letter rack with newspapers, notes, writing implements, seals and combs was one of Collier's favourite subjects. He painted many variations of it with similar objects slightly differently arranged, but always with different dates and printed texts.
Although this picture bears no date, a clue is given by the folded London newspaper at the top of the rack which is dated 'Monday, May 15 ...': the only likely Monday to fall on this date was in 1699.

August 2004