Card Rack with a Jack of Hearts

Card Rack with a Jack of Hearts


John F. Peto

(American, 1854-1907)

Oil on canvas

Framed: 95.9 x 83.2 x 4.4 cm (37 3/4 x 32 3/4 x 1 3/4 in.); Unframed: 76.2 x 63.5 cm (30 x 25 in.); Former: 95.9 x 83.2 x 5.7 cm (37 3/4 x 32 3/4 x 2 1/4 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1973.30



Peto specialized in a type of painting called trompe l’oeil, which is French for "fools the eye." Trompe l’oeil painters strive to trick viewers into thinking what they see is real. Peto achieved such an effect by depicting items that in actuality are almost flat, such as the scraps of paper and clothtape letter rack. As a result, viewers cannot rely on spatial clues to distinguish between reality and illusion. Peto’s choice of objects creates evocative associations. Here an image of Abraham Lincoln carries with it memories of his assassination. The jack of hearts may allude to elements of chance and luck. In a humorous touch, Peto rendered a cigarette butt at the bottom of the canvas, making it appear to rest on the picture’s frame. The exact meaning of this grouping remains unclear, but Peto evidently saw his world as simultaneously tragic and comic.

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