Problems with Holbein's Ambassadors and the Anamorphosis of the Skull

John Sharp
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (1998)
Pages 157–166


Holbein's The Ambassadors at the National Gallery in London has recently been restored with a great deal of criticism. Much of this has been centred on understanding the anamorphosis of the skull. The publications of the Gallery on the subject do not inspire confidence and the restoration has probably destroyed evidence which may never allow the nature of its construction to be determined. Science has become part of art restoration; the gross errors made show that mathematicians and art historians need to be working together also. It shows why artists need to be taught to think using the scientific method, which has been frowned upon in UK schools. There is an urgent need for bridges to be built between disciplines.