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Anamorphosis: All Depends on Your Point of View

Posted on the 20 February 2014 by Opticalh @OpticalH

Whether you wear glasses or contact lenses, as if you have no lack of sight, often what we see with our eyes is actually an amazing trick.

Anamorphosis is a type of optical illusion that makes objects or images to appear distorted, and they only display correctly from a specific point of view or using some special device.

Anamorphosis in art

This striking effect has been frequently used in arts throughout history to create sensations or convey ideas. There are numerous examples in all art disciplines throughout history.

Hans Holbein - Los-Embajadores

Known as ” The Ambassadors “, this painting by Hans Holbein the Younger, is a work full of symbols. In the foreground it has a strange shape that was a mistery until the twentieth century. This figure is actually an anamorphosis of a skull, baroque symbol of the brevity of life.

The artist painted this part using the reflection of a teaspoon , so to see the skull without deformation,  a spoon must be used, or stand looking at the picture at a suitable angle from below.

Anamorfismo con columna

Another example is found in this work of Istvan Orosz , which uses a cylinder to paint a column with its capital. In these works , the artist draws on paper, while staring at the cylinder to see the reflection created by each trace.

Sculptures also offers many opportunities to experiment with anamorphosis to create optical illusions.

Escultura Mandela

This sculpture of Nelson Mandela is a work by Marco Cianfanelli and it is a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the capture of the South African leader by the apartheid police. Formed by 50 steel columns symbolizing the prison; its location and strange shape make up a Mandela portrait when the sculpture is viewed from a specific position.

Everyday examples of anamorphosis

Everyday we find many examples of anamorphosis almost without being aware of it. For example, in panoramic projections in cinemascope, a deformed image is recorded and it displays correctly when it is projected.

Again, when a driver perfectly reads “BUS” in the road, he/she is actually seeing an anamorphism. The signal is deformed so it can be clearly read from far away.

Another interesting example can be seen in football or basketball games: there are advertisements painted on the floor like a billboard, but they only display correctly when viewed from where the television cameras are located.

Face Reality As It Is, Anamorphic Typography

This experiment by Thomas Quinn is an invitation to “face reality as it is”… however, he is also saying that reality depends on your point of view.

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