This 'X-ray' optical illusion street art is blowing minds in Rome

We've seen plenty of stunning optical illusions over the past year, from falling figures that aren't actually falling, to rotating cubes that aren't actually rotating (basically, lots of things that look like they're doing things that they aren't doing). But this new piece by street artist JR might be one of the most traffic-stopping examples we've seen.

Adorning the facade of the Palazzo Farnese (Rome's French embassy) is a stunning trompe l’oeil illusion creating the impression that the building has been torn open, revealing an incredible classical scene inside. Like all of the best street art, it wows on both a technical and creative level.

A post shared by JR (@jr)

A photo posted by on

According to The Art Newspaper, the illusion was commissioned to disguise scaffolding across the front of the building, which is currently undergoing a four-year restoration. The art offers a glimpse of the Renaissance interior within, while creative details such as the inclusion of a statue of Hercules (since removed) reference the Palazzo Farnese's colourful history.

JR optical illusion street art on the wall of the Palazzo Farnese

Cracking (Image credit: Palazzo Farnese)

JR is one of the only street artists who comes close to Banksy when it comes to anonymous fame. Best known for large scale street art and trompe l’oeil illusions, the artist recently blew us away with an installation that appeared to remove the ground beneath the Eiffel Tower.

optical illusion

JR recently took the ground (and viewers' breath) away in Paris (Image credit: JR)

And the Palazzo Farnese illusion is, of course, getting a rapturous response online. "I’m having a hard time even comprehending how that works — but it’s amazing," one Redditor declares, while an Instagram user comments on the artist's Instagram post (above), "JR you are a genius. As an architect myself this sort of work is always interesting to me."

From From retro head-spinners to brand new colours, we've seen some truly incredible illusions lately. If you fancy creating your own, take a look at the best Adobe Creative Cloud deals below. And for all of our favourite mind-bogglers in one place, check out our 12 favourite optical illusions.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.