What is an anamorphic image?
An Anamorphic Image is an image that appears normal only when viewed from some particular perspective or when viewed through some transforming optical device such as a mirror.
Photograph A is an anamorph of photograph B.
Artists in the renaissance were often fascinated with such perspective distortions and incorporated them into their paintings. Undoubtedly the most famous plane anamorphic painting is The Ambassadors (1533) by Hans Holbein. The gray smudge in the lower centre of the painting is seen as a skull when viewed from the right at a shallow angle above the surface.
When an image is viewed in a mirror which is not flat, the image appears distorted and is a mirror anamorph. A familiar example is the common right-hand rear-view-mirror on many automobiles that provide an expanded but distorted view. Another familiar example is the Fun House Mirror in which the distortions are carried to comic extremes.
Beginning in the renaissance, artists experimented with the anamorphic images produced by simple mirrors. Of the many possibilities, the conical mirror and the cylindrical mirror were the most common. Because conical mirrors are difficult to make and cylindrical ones are easy the cylindrical anamorph is the most common. These anamorphs were valued decorations among the wealthy, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many famous paintings were copied as anamorphs for the aristocracy. In the 19th century, with the transfer of interest to photography, the cylindrical anamorph became a children's toy.