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3DVisA Index of 3D Projects: Art History - Painting

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein (1)

Hans Holbein painted the portrait of Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Salve, known as The Ambassadors (now at the National Gallery, London) in 1533. The painting has been a subject of considerable debate owing to its complex composition, ambiguous meaning and - until recently - uncertain provenance. A number of investigators have resorted to the use of computerised methods.

In this project a simple CAD model was constructed in order to examine possible viewing positions and angles at which the painting had been intended to be seen. This led to a suggestion that the portrait was originally hung on a staircase in the hall of Dinteville's house at Poisy. A three-dimensional wire frame model of the anamorphosis, i.e. the mysterious object placed by the artist in the foreground, was another 3D visualisation created as part of the same project. Anamorphosis is a technique of geometric distortion; it was popular in the 1530s, especially among German artists who employed it as an optical puzzle, to convey secret messages and show off their technical mastery.

See also The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein (2).

Project dates: 1998?

Resource status: ?

Contributors: Vaughan Hart and Joe Robson, Centre for Advanced Studies in Architecture (CASA), School of Architecture, University of Bath, UK.

Sources and further details:

Hart, V. and Robson, J. (1999), 'Hans Holbein's The Ambassadors (1533): A Computer View of Renaissance Perspective Illusion', Computers and the History of Art, 8.2, pp. 1-13.

Record compiled by Anna Bentkowska-Kafel. Last updated: 11 September 2006.

3DVisA gratefully acknowledges the help of ...... with preparation of this record.

CASA and 3DVisA, 2006.

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