Art historians/enthusiasts: Help me find this (18th c, european) painting?
January 17, 2010 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I saw a painting that really intrigued me, but I forgot its title and author immediately. In this painting, a stately man sits at a desk, and there's a globe in the picture, but also a really indistinct object which looks wrong in some way - the perspective seems off somehow, its coloration - until you look at it from a more acute angle relative to the painting, at which point it makes more visual sense. It might have been titled 'diplomats' something or other.
posted by voronoi to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think it was The Ambassadors by Holbein. It's got a skull in the foreground painted in a different perspective.
posted by Nedroid at 1:26 PM on January 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

Yep, seconding The Ambassadors. When you walk all the way to the right, the weird smear is clearly a skull.

It's in Britain's National Gallery.
posted by purpleclover at 1:43 PM on January 17, 2010

The skull is a memento mori, a reminder of death and the ultimate insignificance of these momentarily powerful and privileged people. Great painting.
posted by crazylegs at 2:33 PM on January 17, 2010

The technique of rendering objects like the skull in The Ambassadors is perspective anamorphosis, BTW.
posted by neroli at 3:13 PM on January 17, 2010

The Brothers Quay made a great and typically weird short film on anamorphosis (called ... Anamorphosis, and available on this disc) which spends a good deal of time on The Ambassadors.
posted by Dr. Wu at 3:56 PM on January 17, 2010

I am so pleased with you guys. Thank you, esp. to Nedroid.
posted by voronoi at 12:23 PM on January 18, 2010

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