Snail Attack! (Anamorphosis)

Aaah! Courtesy of

Anamorphosis – It doesn’ t have to do with Animorphs, sorry, but it’s maybe almost as cool. Anamorphosis is the process of drawing something that looks normal from a specific angle, but distorted from any other angle.

Look at the snail again:

…aah? Courtesy of

Julian Beever is famous for his anamorphic chalk drawings, but the earliest known intentional anamorphosis was created by Leonardo da Vinci. It requires a careful calculation of angles, like perspective drawing in general, and was thus effectively impossible before the Renaissance.

A well-known example of anamorphosis is The Ambassadors, painted in 1533. The true form of that smear on the bottom may not have been fully recognized until 1900! (Look at the painting from an extreme angle on the right–to see on the computer, put your face perpendicular to the screen with your left eye looking across it, at the level of the center of the painting, so above the smear)

A Grim Surprise

Hey, who’s that guy?

Besides hiding (spoilers!) weird skulls in unassuming portraits, Renaissance artists also used these techniques to make interesting perspectives on cathedral ceilings and through cylindrical mirrors.

Column in a Mirror

Making of...

And that’s the random thing I learned today. Here’s one more recent chalk drawing, for maximum vertigo:

Crazy Ferris Wheel

Once again from

And with that, I’ve gotten through a whole cycle of blog posts! Back to a real explanation next week, and thanks for sticking around.

About sarahexplains

I explain things! Hopefully things that people want to know. I'm working on that part.
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