Optical Illusion Skull Images
Sometimes we stumble on strange backwaters of graphic arts history. One of those is the artistic tradition of creating images which appear normal, but also create a secondary image of a skull, an artistic optical illusion which was very popular it he late 19th and early 20th century, especially in France.
The most famous of these images is C. A. Gilbert’s 1892 sketch “All is Vanity” (see right) which depicts a girl seated at a vanity and admiring herself in a mirror, but if you ignore the details and focus on the whole image the various elements combine to create the appearance of a skull, making a point about the transitory nature of beauty.
As it turns out, Gilbert’s sketch inspired a trend and there are many other images from that period which are done in a similar style and producing a similar illusion, such as “L’Amour de Pierrot” which was produced in France in 1905 (see left). It depicts the characters Pierrot and Columbine and foreshadows a tragic outcome to their love.
When it comes to foreshadowing, none of these images is more on target than the politically motivated French 1894 cartoon “Familie Imperiale de Russie” which shows the Russian royal family inside a skull illusion.
In many cases these skull illusion pictures feature images of children or young lovers, drawing the contrast between youth and life and the inevitability of death, as shown in the examples shown below.
May 25, 2012 | Filed Under Found Art
New Font: BigBlok
A great many years ago when working in game publishing I had a real fascination with doing titles in a strong, super-bold font called Bolt Bold. The truth is I rather overused it. In doing some research I find it on more than a dozen different game books I wrote in the early 80s, all quite collectable and out of print today.
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Lyceum has the stylized shape and look of a font designed for the program at a lecture hall, hence the name. It is super bold but remains highly readable at fairly small sized, though the contrasts are dramatic. It features only an uppercase characters set because the st[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Yancey is a new font based on a hand-lettered design by Samuel Welo in the late 1920s. It is very much in the tradition of Art Deco designs of that period and designed for decorative titles of poster design uses. Yancey includes two versions of the character set,[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Escargot is based on lettering from the cover of an early pulp novel I came across a couple of months ago. It's a strong example of a distinctive style of sign and poster lettering from the 1930, characterized by super high contrast between the weighting on the le[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Highball is a bold font in every sense of the word. Yes, its weight is heavy and pronounced in the traditional meaning of bold, but it is also of an extreme height which could be considered bold, and of a boldly progressive style. Highball features a full character s[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Roghwork is a unique font which combines a decoarative upper case character set with a simple set of lowercase characters. Designed primarily for use in titles and posters, the uppercase characters are based on samples of hand-drawn master designs for a set of roman-st[...]
Vasilisa is based on Russian folk art lettering from the pre-revolutionary period. It is included in our original Russian Fonts and Art package. It is very readable in English but also includes elements of Cyrillic lettering. It is evocative of rural Russian life and fits well with the hand crafted peasant wood[...]
BUY NOW Cymbeline was one of our earliest font designs and has been fairly popular over the years, but some of the shortcomings of the font came to our attention after seeing the font on a book cover, so we decided to work it over and see if we could produce an improved version, while preserving the ca[...]
Phaeton is one of our earliest Art Nouveau designs, a lovely example of period title lettering based on French samples. This new release has some significant improvements to the outlines and additional characters added to the basic set. You can find Phaeton in our Art Nouveau Collection or order it individua[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Squiffy is a fun font. It has a background in arts and crafts style font design, but rather than the regular, architectural character forms and arrangements, the characters are wild and irregular and highly varied. There are two distinct versions of every character, with[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Quicksilver was designed as one of the original featured fonts included in our Psychedelic Fonts Package. It was developed into a full font from a sample of lettering from Quicksilver Messenger Service's live album Summer of '68 and posters for shows associated with it [...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview We've featured some articles on the designs of pulp novel covers from the mid-20th century, including s look at the fonts used in those designs. We've also released fonts based on those designs, like suspicion. These old book cover designs are a great resource for [...]
In an article last week we explored the origins of the font used in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and a bit of the history of the Django genre of films. That was part of the process of the development of an original font based on the lettering used in the original Django, a process similar to what was p[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Edifice is a decorative titling font based on samples of lettering by J. M. Bergling. It has an architectural, constructed look to it. Very well suited to sign and poster design. It's stylish but still readable and clear. Edifice includes a full uppercase charac[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Custom Preview Sanhedrin is a decorative futuristic font, which features two distinct sets of different characters and a number of additional special characters. It draws some characters from the Greek alphabet and also has some unusual art nouveau character forms and a strange biblic[...]
BUY NOW TRY DEMO Malagua was originally released in 1999 and has been revised several times since then, culminating in this new release with improved weighting and additional special characters. MAlagua is based on examples of rough hand lettering from the 17th century. It has characteristics [...]
At the start of every year we put out a special sampler package of the fonts and art which we released or revised in the previous year at a very low introductory price. It's a great way to try out some of our products. Now it's time to release the sampler for 2014, with a [more]
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Too often when looking at antique books we concentrate on the contents and ignore the covers, but some book covers are artworks in their own right and cannot be ignored, this is even more true with eBooks which are more and more causing content to be divorced from packaging. In the early 20th century, before the adv[more]
If you don't already get our weekly (more or less) newsletter with free offers, discount coupons and links to our articles and new releases, this is the time to sign up. We're constantly putting new articles, new fonts, new reviews and new links to great antique art and design resources on our site. Every [more]
When we were renovating our house I discovered ornamental brass fixtures for the doors designed by Charles Eastlake. So I went shopping and found antique Eastlake hinges and knobs for all the doors. Charles Locke Eastlake (1836–1906) was the greatest British Arts and Crafts designer in the period after William Mor[more]
Every year we try to amuse with some sort of April Fools prank. Last year visitors to the site were first greeted by what looked like a hacker takeover, a modest joke, but we've done some even bigger and sillier things in previous years. Here are some examples preserved as best we could. 1998 April Fools Page 1999[more]
As part of Great Britain's participation in the 1906 World's Fair in Chicago, legendary Arts and Crafts artist Walter Crane was comissioned to produce a special commemorative book in a limited edition. The result was Columbia's Courtship, an epic poem about American history, written and hand lettered by Walter Crane wi[more]
I was browsing through the new release section in my local bookstore, enjoying the nostalgia of the printed book, when my eye was caught by an historical novel called "The Siege Winter." More specifically the cover design drew my attention, because it used one of our earliest fonts, Cymbeline. More particularly I was s[more]
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- L. E. Wright Borders
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- Columbia's Courtship by Walter Crane