The curious, wondrous genre of quodlibet painting, like all trompe l’oeil, hinges on the mechanics of surprise. An initial deception – painting deceives us into believing it is reality rather than painted illusion – gives way to realization of the deception and the ensuing surprise. But it is what follows this momentary confusion and astonishment that matters. That is, how the trompe l’oeil invites an interrogation, one that is above all metaphysical, into questions of truth and reality, the nature of objects as signs, the conditions of artmaking and the limits and potentials of painting as a form of representation. Here, painting is not a window on to the world, but an inquiry into painting which, through the juxtaposition of profundity and banality poses itself as a puzzle. In Jean Baudrillard’s memorable words, it is by ‘outdoing the effect of the real’ that the trompe l’oeil throws ‘radical doubt on the principal of reality’.