The geometry of illusion: art meets science

The anamorphic sculptures of Stella Battaglia and Gianni Miglietta result from artistic experimentation of the sculptural potentialities of perspective. Much of this research has been carried out within the context of these two artists’ fruitful collaboration with the Museo Galileo in years of exhibitions and educational workshops exploring the relationships between art and science. Shapes and forms are modelled not only by the artist’s hand but also by the eye, guided by the laws of geometry and optics. Visual rays and beams of light are the invisible geometric framework that supports the fleeting images of anamorphoses. These images appear only when observed from a precise vantage point, or when reflected in a mirror. Viewed from any other point, they are either distorted or totally unrecognizable. To the traditional pictorial applications on two-dimensional surfaces (paper or canvas) typical of the Baroque Age, Battaglia and Miglietta have added works on three-dimensional supports.


“Anamorphosis” is a seventeenth-century neologism, a term coined to indicate a kind of pictorial representation based on the study of perspective aberrations, which was widespread in Baroque art. Composed of the Greek words aná and morphè, it indicates the progressive deformation of images as the observer’s viewpoint changes. Aná refers to movement from below to above, while morphè refers to the shape of an object. The image can be correctly perceived from one observation point only.

Optical, catoptric and dioptric anamorphosis

The works displayed here illustrate three traditional types of anamorphosis:
optical: the image is recognizable only when observed with the naked eye from a particular viewpoint;
catoptric: the image appears correctly when reflected in a mirror;
dioptric: the image is recognizable when viewed through a lens.

The camera obscura

A ray of light passing through a small hole in a wall projects images of objects or persons into a dark chamber, showing their shapes and colours. With a very small hole, the image appears in focus but dimly lit; with a larger hole the image is brighter, but a lens is needed to bring it into focus.