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Symbiartic


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Find All the Absurdities!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A little blast from the past to puzzle over while your head spins from chocolate overload this weekend.

Two centuries before M.C. Escher confounded us with his optical illusions and play on perspective, William Hogarth (1697-1764) created Satire on False Perspective. Hogarth was a British painter and engraver sometimes credited with beginning the tradition of sequential art in Western culture due to his series of paintings depicting the rise and fall of a dandy, A Rake’s Progress.

Complicated methods of using perspective to create an illusion of 3-dimensions in 2-dimensional art had been mastered (again) in Renaissance art a few centuries earlier. As well as a painter, Hogarth was something like a political cartoonist and satirist in his day. Here, in his engraving Satire on False Perspective are a number of errors. Can you spot them all?

Satire on False Perspective, William Hogart 1753. The note at the bottom reads, "Whoever makes a DESIGN without the Knowledge of PERSPECTIVE will be liable to such Absurdities as are shown in this Frontifpiece".

On my first pass getting this ready to post, I spotted 8. The Wikipedia entry on this page includes a list of ~23 different mistakes of perspective!

I’ve placed them all below: highlight to read the text!

  1. The man in the foreground’s fishing rod‘s line passes behind that of the man behind him.
  2. The sign is moored to two buildings, one in front of the other, with beams that show no difference in depth
  3. The sign is overlapped by two distant trees.
  4. The man climbing the hill is lighting his pipe with the candle of the woman leaning out of the upper story window.
  5. The crow perched on the tree is massive in comparison to it.
  6. The church appears to front onto the river. Both ends of the church are viewable at the same time.
  7. The left horizon on the water declines precipitously.
  8. The man in the boat under the bridge fires at the swan on the other side, which is impossible as he’s aiming straight at the bridge abutments.
  9. The right-hand end of the arch above the boat meets the water further from the viewer than does the left-hand end.
  10. The two story building, though viewed from below shows the top of the roof. As does the church tower in the distance.
  11. The barrel closest to the foreground fisherman reveals both its top and bottom simultaneously.
  12. The tiles the foreground fisherman stands on have a vanishing point that converge towards the viewer.
  13. A tree is growing out of the top of the bridge.
  14. The vanishing point for the near side of the first building transforms midway down the wall.
  15. The line of trees obscuring the sign are likely representative of how objects should decrease in scale as they move further away, but in this case reversed.
  16. The sheep on the left-hand side increase in scale as they get further away.
  17. The swan behind the boat is larger than the men manning the boat.
  18. The base of the tree on the far left is behind the tree to the right it, but the canopy is in front of the tree to the right of it.
  19. The left-most barrel appears to be on lower ground than the other two when they should be on level ground.
  20. The bottom swan is slightly smaller than the cow.
  21. The man with the pipe is taller than the trees.
  22. The tops and bottoms of the windows on the second building have different vanishing points.
  23. Aside from the impossibilities of scale there are in fact approximately 10 different horizons based on the various vanishing points.

List what you found in the comments before peeking!  I’ll include mine below too.

- -

Satire on False Perspective, William Hogarth, 1753.

Credit for the list of Absurdities on Wikipedia appears to belong to many Wikipedia users. Thanks crowd!

Edit: Twitter user @CurlingRiver shared with me that highlighting the white text isn’t working on a MacBook Air running Safari or Chrome. Click here to see the answers on Wikipedia: Wikipedia entry.

Glendon Mellow About the Author: Glendon Mellow is a fine artist, illustrator and tattoo designer working in oil and digital media based in Toronto, Canada. He tweets @FlyingTrilobite. You can see Glendon's work-in-progress at The Flying Trilobite blog and portfolio at www.glendonmellow.com. Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.



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