Simulacra (2)

By: Matthew Battles
June 8, 2010

Trompe l’oeil is a venerable form in Western art. In defiance of pious proscriptions against hyper-reality in image-making, artists have been trying to trick the eye since Roman times.

It’s a natural genre for tattooing. Most trompe l’oeil tattoos, it seems, don’t merely use the body as canvas, but break the frame, hinting at corporeality’s dark secrets. True to the roguish ways of contemporary body adornment, such tattoos are often more assaut d’oeil than trompe.

Not all trompe l’oeil tattoos tear beneath the surface; sometimes they comment on the ways in which we cover it up.

Of course, if the commitment to comprehensive ink is too much, one still has options. Order pull-on yakuza tattoo sleeves for trompe l’oeil of a different kind.

Or you can take advantage of Chanel’s new stick-on tattoos, which take trompe l’oeil to the level of brand.

They’re $75 for a pack of 55 designs by Chanel creative director Peter Philips. The trompes pile up quickly here: in place of the lowbrow stick-on Cracker Jack prize tattoos of yore, we have “tattoo-inspired body art.” They’re designed to look like jewelry — but their black-and-white tones evoke nineteenth century designers’ pattern books.

And when Lindsey Lohan recently stepped out at Cannes bedecked with the Chanel stick-ons, the paparrazzi went gaga over her new tattoos.