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Italian Illusions

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On the Italian coast, colored houses spill down a hillside, soaking up the sun as they face the sea. But look closely and you notice something is a little strange. In Camogli the art of illusion is everywhere. This fishing village near Genoa is a living museum of "trompe l' oeil" - literally, "to trick the eye". And it does get tricky. Windows open in solid walls. Elaborate stonework - that isn't. And while some flowers fade, others stay fresh for years. Camogli's fisherman originally painted their houses in bright colors and unusual design so that they could recognize them from the water. In the eighteenth century, however, it became a way to make small simple buildings seem luxurious and grand. There are thousands of trompe l' oeil houses in this region, but only a handful of artists still painting them. Raffaella Stacca learned painting from her grandmother. Using classical methods on her own modern designs, she gives housepainting a whole new meaning. These painted facades are typical of Liguria - really typical. But for a while it seemed like no one was doing them anymore. It's taken twenty years to perfect her technique of re-creating stone so that it looks real, even close up. Like most painters, she learned trompe l' oeil from other artists - not in school. But with few artists, there are fewer teachers, and fewer places to learn. Carlo Pere has made a business out of making the surreal real. Buyers for his imaginary terraces and bogus balconies often live in small houses or city apartments. Pere's job is to improve the view. Trompe l' oeil means bringing Milan to the sea, or the sea to the mountains. Or vice-versa. Pere's technique comes out of an art handbook from the fourteenth century. Even his paintshave the stamp of history. He uses only pure pigments mixed by hand. It keeps tradition alive. In Camogli the local cultures is still in plain view, from the bay to the bar. You just might not believe your eyes.

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 34 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: National Geographic
Director: National Geographic
Views: 139
Posted by: greenbo on Mar 29, 2010

How many of those windows are real?

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