Anamorphic illusions are based on the principle of anamorphosis, which is any warped projection that requires the viewer to look at it from a specific perspective or use a special device to correctly or fully, see the image.

 

The Ambassadors

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger. 1533. Original painting used oil on oil. It is currently in the National Gallery, London. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

There are two types of anamorphosis: Perspective anamorphosis and mirror anamorphosis.
Perspectival anamorphosis requires the viewer to position themselves from a specific vantage point to see the image clearly. Looked at from any other perspective, the image will appear distorted.

 

The Skull

When viewed from a specific vantage point, the anamorphic skull from is revealed from Hans Holbein’s The Ambassador.

Mirror anamorphosis uses a reflective object to view a projection correctly. Most commonly, it requires a cylindrical mirror that is placed on top of a flat image, for example a distorted painting, to transform the illusion into a 3-D reflection that can be viewed from different angles.

Mysterious Island

István Orosz. One of Orosz’ well-known masterpieces of hidden anamorphosis, the image above illustrates a shipwreck scene from the novel “The Mysterious Island” by the19th century French author Jules Verne. 1983.

In most cases, the mirror has to be placed at a specific place on top of the image to completely reveal the hidden image.

Jules Verne

A portrait of Jules Verne, author of “They Mysterious Island” which inspired Orosz’s artwork, can only be viewed with a reflective cylinder (50 x 70 cm) when it’s placed on top of the moon.

If you’re a escape room designer, anamorphic illusions can inspire a very interesting and clever optical illusion puzzle. What would you be hiding? A hidden object? message? pathway to the key?