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A picture (or a part of one) executed in such a way that the image appears distorted or unintelligible until it is seen from an unusual angle or by means of a special lens or mirror, when it appears in lifelike aspect. Anamorphosis is first mentioned in the notes of Leonardo da Vinci, and perhaps the most famous example of its use is in Holbein's The Ambassadors (1533, NG, London), which features a distorted skull, probably a symbol of the brevity of life. Generally, however, the purpose of anamorphosis was to mystify or amuse, and it rarely occurs in major works such as this.

Subjects: Art.

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