Anamorphic Art by Salvador Dali also holds hidden self portraits

Check out this drawing by Surrealist artist Salvador Dali, which I saw at the Dali Museum in Montmartre (formally known as Espace Dali). It's placed flat on a table, and from the initial look via the two pictures below, it looks like a very strange looking insect. But there's a lot more to this drawing than one might think at first glance. Scroll down to learn more ...


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Anamorphic art by Salvador Dali at the Dali Museum in Montmartre

The drawing gets transformed if you put down a mirrored cylinder, which you can see below left. In the reflection of the cylinder, you can now see that it transforms the insect into a somewhat bizarre portrait of a man wearing a blue hat.

This trick of taking a somewhat distorted image and turning it into something else via a mirrored cylinder is called "anamorphic art." However, anamorphic art is not totally dependent upon using a mirrored cylinder; it can also be achieved by having the viewer see the image from a distinct and sharp angle, which then visually transforms the image as well. The earliest known example of anamorphic art was created by Leonardo da Vinci in 1485, in which he drew an image that almost looks like a pond in a landscape, but once you turn the paper and look at it from an angle, it "transforms" into the image of an eye (check out the video, below right). In the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, anamorphic images became extremely popular, and artists sometimes used them to hide extreme political statements or heretical ideas (meaning: against established beliefs or standards).

anamorphic art uses a mirrored cylinder to transform a distorted image

In this example of anamorphic art, however, I think Dali is also hiding something that one doesn't even need the cylinder to see ... if you look at the image of the insect upside down (below left), can you see how the insect starts to look like a self-portrait of Salvador Dali? The bug's torso becomes his nose, and the insect legs become Dali's eyebrows and famous mustache, and of course the wings contain his eyes. Can you see it? But I also think the image contains a second self-portrait, below center. See how the watercolor paint drips look like eyes, the curly black lines are his nose, and then he again portrays his upturned mustache, lips, and discolored teeth below? What at first had seemed like a simple (yet weird) bug image reveals itself to have all sorts of images contained within it, depending on how you view it.

Two self portraits in one drawing by Surrealist artist Salvador Dali