exhibition architecture


HOOGSTRATEN, Samuel van 1627 - 1678

A Peepshow with Views of the Interior of a Dutch House


About 1655-60

Oil and egg tempera on wood

58 x 88 x 63.5 cm.

The peepshow is a rectangular box; the interior is painted on three sides, as well as on the top and bottom. The sixth side is open; originally light would have entered the box from this side. There are peepholes in the two shorter sides, which provide the illusion of

three-dimensional views of the interior of a house.

The light source opening on the long side reveals the peep show in maybe the most interesting way by giving us the distorted view of the perspective. It seems that something is not quite right.


In order to understand the optical illusion of the distorted perspective I draw out the plan from the peep show, to find the specific points where the perspective is cheating the eye (see plan drawing above).

It turns out that a big part of the plan is actually missing in the perspective, and that the peep show covers this by placing strange amorphous objects like cloth, pillows and dogs at the critical points. When an object is amorphous we are willing to believe what we see, rather than what we think we see, because we cannot quite imagine what that object is like.

The peep show tells us that we are able to fully believe and understand a picture of a space which is actually completely distorted. This is possible because our predetermined knowledge is so strong that the brain makes things appear in the way in which we are used to seeing them.

The scans of the plan are rotated and stretched around the specific points where the perspective is cheating the eye.