Macabre Optical Illusions

Below are some macabre artistic optical illusions. They were known as metamorphic images and often contained a moral or allegorical message. They were quite popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and appeared on postcards.

All Is Vanity (1892) - Charles Allan Gilbert (1873-1929)


All is Vanity, metamorphic art

All Is Vanity is an allegory of death. It features a Victorian woman gazing at herself in the mirror on her dressing table. A combination of the mirror, the fabric, the cosmetic bottles, her face and her reflected profile create the appearance of a skull. The effect of this picture is best achieved when viewed at a distance.

Gossip, and Satan Came Also (circa. 1900) - George Wotherspoon

   Gossip and Satan Came Also, metamorphic art

Two women stand and chat outside what looks like a gateway or an ornate doorway. However, if you stand back you can see that their hats and hair give the appearance of eyes and one of the women's outreached arms serves as the demonic looking sneer. The arched gateway/doorway forms the top of the head, complete with two small devil horns.

In Voluptas Mors (1951), Philippe Halsman (1906-1979) and Salvador Dali (1904-1989)

In Voluptas Mors (1951) Halsman and Dali, metamorphic art

Seven naked women pose in the shape of a skull. The image appears on The Silence of the Lambs poster as the back of the Death's Head Moth. It also inspired the poster for The Descent.

Other Metamorphic Images Appearing on Postcards

Au Revoir, metamorphic art
Au Revoir
Diablo, metamorphic art
L'amour de Pierrot, metamorphic art
L'amour de Pierrot
Metamorphic Skull
Metamorphic Skull
Victorian Metamorphic postcard
Credit: Wellcome Library


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