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

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein (2)

This project was concerned with 3D visualisation of the anamorphosis depicted by Hans Holbein in the foreground of the double portait of Jean de Dinteville, the French ambassador to the English court, and Georges de Selve, the bishop of Lavaur. The portrait is commonly known as The Ambassadors (1533, National Gallery, London).

The term anamorphosis refers to an object depicted in distorted perspective. For the spectator standing in front of the picture, the object is unidentifiable in normal viewing. When looked at a very acute angle, Holbein's anamorphosis can be recognised as a skull. It has been suggested (see The Ambassadors (2) that the portrait was hung by the staircase of de Dinteville's Ch‚teau of Polisy, and was intended as a meaningful memento mori for the visitors; they probably approached it in a way that made them see the skull well.

A VRLM 3D visualisation of the anamorphosis, simulating the viewing experience which reveals the skull, was created by Kirk Martinez to accompany an exhibition dedicated to the making and meaning of the portrait, held at the National Gallery in London in 1997. It can be seen documented on a video film produced by the Gallery to complement the exhibition.

See also The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein (1).

Project dates: 1997

Resource status: Making and Meaning: Holbeinís Ambassadors, video, ISBN 1-85709-156-6, National Gallery, London, 1997.

Contributors: Kirk Martinez, Department of the History of Art, Birkbeck College, University of London (now Southampton University) and the National Gallery, London.

Sources and further details:

Foster, S., Roy, A. and Wyld, M. (1998), Making and Meaning: Holbeinís Ambassadors, exh. cat., National Gallery, London, 5 November 1997 - 1 February. National Gallery Publications.


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

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

© 3DVisA, 2006.

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