The reading for the day in Bennet and Royle was all about Wordsworth's Prelude and how movies make us see ourselves seeing. Apparently, no art of any sort before movies made us think about art as art, about perspective, time, and such. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for movies!
Too bad no one thought to let Holbein know! I get frustrated when someone looks at stuff from the 20th century and thinks that no one had a brain before 1901, can you tell? Yeah, lots of new technology, and lots to play with about that new technology, but people played with lots of ideas in just about any century or age you can imagine.
Holbein's Ambassadors is everyone's favorite picture to demonstrate anamorphosis, the strategy of using a radical change in formation (or deformation) that forces the viewer of a piece of art to look from an oblique angle or use a mirror or other means of seeing. It's just one strategy to make the viewer think about him/herself as viewing, as having to take a stand and think about perspective.
In The Ambassadors, that blob at the lower part of the picture, next to the charming shoes (Look, early Earth Shoes!), is an anamorphic skull. If you look at the picture from way low on your left (or way high on your right, which is easier with my computer screen), and look up at the blob, you see that it's a skull. It's way more fun than reading The Prelude. I may be biased. (Romanticists everywhere are preparing nasty comments; or they would be except they all secretly hate The Prelude anyways. Kidding, folks!)
Few people are aware that Holbein was actually a big Silence of the Lambs fan, but this homage to the poster provides clear evidence. Or maybe he was into Dali?
NB. If you are a student, please think hard before you use that last paragraph. And be sure to cite my site! Here's how!