Memento Mori (after Holbein)

In The Ambassadors (1533), Hans Holbein depicts two men, surrounded by the accoutrements of a learned and cultured society. In the lower part of the painting, an elongated object slashes up and to the right, apparently in front of the posing gentlemen. When seen from an oblique angle, the object is revealed as a skull. This effect is an anamorphosis, an image projected obliquely to a picture plane that can only be seen from the original projection point. Holbein’s skull is a memento mori, or reminder of mortality. Using various software, the skull perspective is corrected and distorted anew, and redrawn with dots of varying diameters. Mounted on a surface and seen from the correct vantage point, a new memento mori appears, normally obfuscated by the seemingly random pattern of elliptical dots seen from elsewhere.

Hans Holbein, The Ambassadors 1533
Hans Holbein, The Ambassadors (1533). The lower foreground is dominated by an unknown object.
When seen from the correct oblique viewpoint, the object is revealed as a skull.
Holbein skull, redrawn with dots
The Holbein skull is digitally manipulated to restore its orientation and made up of varying diameter dots.
Dot skull skewed for anamorphosis
The new skull is repositioned and altered to create a new anamorphosis.
Screenshot of anamorphic projection
Screenshot of anamorphic projection in process. Once a viewing point is established, projection lines guide the anamorphic construction.
Installation View
Installation view, with projection lines marking the wall and floor to guide the viewer to the precise vantage point location.
View from various angles
Installation view, from various angles. The skull becomes recognizable as the viewer approaches the vantage point location.