Sunday, 29 April 2012

Trompe L'oeil

            In addition to myrioramas, there were many other visual entertainments, puzzles and curiosities to delight the eye. There is a resurgence of 3D cinema at present, but it is nothing new. Three-dimensional images were developed by Charles Wheatstone, stemming from his research into stereopsis in the 1830s. Wheatstone invented the stereoscope, which used two different perspectives of a subject to achieve enhanced depth perception in the viewer. Improvements by David Brewster (who also invented the kaleidoscope), and in photography, led the stereoscope to become very popular from the mid-19th century.

Here is a scan of a typical stereogram from 1904, showing a view of the Grand Canyon.

Stereograms were viewed by putting them in a stereoscope. Here is a more modern example, a Vistascreen viewer from the 1960s.

Another familiar method of 3D viewing is the anaglyph image, developed in Leipzig by Wilhelm Rollmann in 1852. These are colour-separated images, seen through colour-filtered glasses – usually red and cyan – which are combined in the visual cortex of the brain to give the impression of a three-dimensional picture.

Typical anaglyph glasses.

Scans of  3D anaglyph pictures.

3 D Tyrannosaurus

3 D Mosquito Head

Two different forms of illusion are the reversible face and the hidden face. I’ve quite a collection of these – here are a couple of examples. The reversible face shows a different image if the picture is turned through 180 degrees, thus: -

Four Heads ...

The same four heads turned over.

On the other hand, the distance from which the picture is seen usually governs the hidden face type. From a distance, one sees the image of a face, as you get nearer, more details emerge, and hidden faces, or figures, can be seen.

The illusion of seeing faces or figures in other things is called pareidolia – this is the phenomenon by which people ‘see’ Christ’s image burnt into toast or the name of Allah in a slice of aubergine.

Here is a Green Man. If you look closely at his face, you will see two lovers.

He reminds me of this Wade Green Man. This is part of Wade’s British Myths and Legends series. Expect to pay about £15 for one of these.

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