Saturday, September 17, 2011

Albert or Marilyn?

When this picture appears big, it looks like Albert Einstein.

If you back up from it or see it reduced, it looks like Marilyn Monroe.

This illustrates a phenomenon that portrait painters often notice. As you back up from a portrait, the eyes can seem to shift direction, the expression seems to change, or the whole likeness alters.
Here's more about the illusion from Mail Online:

"The work of Aude Oliva and her colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the illusion was created in three steps. First, the researchers obtained a photograph of Marilyn Monroe and removed the fine-grained facial features, such as any wrinkles or other blemishes.

Second, they obtained a photograph of Albert Einstein and removed the more coarse features, such as the shape of the mouth or nose.  Finally, the two images were superimposed on top of one another. Because the fine-grained features are visible close up, the image looks like Albert Einstein when you're just a few inches away from the page. However, move a few feet away and suddenly only the coarse features are visible, magically transforming the image into Marilyn Monroe."

More great illusions at the Mail Online
Thanks, Beaman Cole!


Darren said...

Squint way down and you'll see Marilyn too.

Aaron said...

you know this is probably why when the police pull witnesses in about a crime. It seems like each persons description is different because even from farther away, our senses still try to fill in some of the missing information (just a random thought). The same reason an artist doesn't always have to put in ever super tiny detail to make a painting look realistic.(which was something I had to learn myself when I was younger).

Sarah Stevenson said...

The funny thing is, at the sort of intermediate (about 1.5-inch) size it appears in my Blogger dashboard feed, you can definitely see both and it looks pretty funny.

Wolf Lahti said...

I didn't know that Norma Jean had a moustache.

hak said...

I saw a similar effect in a portrait of a British officer that was hanging in the Eastman house/mansion in Rochester, NY. The toe of his boot was pointed at you. As you moved to either side of the painting, the boot followed you. Any chance anyone knows the name of this technique or illusion? I'd like to research it some more.

James Gurney said...

Hak, Was that like the effect of the eyes on the portrait following you, or something different?

hak said...

James, very similar. I didn't notice the effect until a woman sitting on a bench pointed it out to me. She had me stand about 20 feet directly in front of the portrait (It was a good 6 or 8 feet tall) and then walk to the side about 20-30 feet and watch the toe of the officer's boot. It follows you.

When I went up close to see if I could figure out what was going in, it looked like a normal boot. I couldn't see how the illusion was created.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the artist or the subject, but the woman said it was a popular portrait technique during that time period...which I also can't recall! I'll use some of my Google Fu to see if I can get some information on the artwork.

hak said...

OK, got the information from the curator at the Eastman House in Rochester, NY. The painting is actually a color Polaroid (it's big) and the artist was Sir Henry Raeburn (1756 - 1823). You can see examples of his work here:

The specific painting is a standing portrait of General Hay MacDowell ( The toe of his left boot is always pointed at the viewer no matter where s/he is. I don't recall if the eyes did the same. It's driving me nuts trying to figure out what is causing this optical illusion.