How a user of this site discovered a visual illusion

Left: Wooden crucifix surrounded by ex-votos in a side chapel of Santa Trinità, Florence
Right: Detail of Christ's torso 

A few weeks ago Maaike Putman, a regular user of this site and an accomplished artist herself, sent me an extraordinary photo of a small wooden crucifix she had found hanging in a side chapel of the Santa Trinità church in Florence (above left). The crucifix is surrounded by ex-votos pinned to the wall behind. Maaike in her artistic practice constructs images in which one shape takes on the form of another so her perception is clearly primed to recognize visual illusions. Someone less prepared in the same situation would not have seen what Maaike did. When she got home she was thinking about the point I make about Christianity, that God is not up in the heavens as the Churches claim but inside our own bodies, that each of us can become God. Then she noticed something extraordinary in the photo she had taken.  She noticed a visual illusion in the torso of Christ, that the lines of Christ’s abdomen also resemble a hooded monk! If intentional, the artist’s meaning is clear and fits with so many of the other paintings explained on this site. A monk, perhaps greatly revered in the region, has become God.

Maaike could not be certain whether the photo had just caught the sculpture from a particular angle and thus whether the shape she was seeing was a feature of the sculpture or the light. Fortunately, a friend in Florence took better pictures a few weeks later and these too show the monk in the torso from every angle. There is no way of knowing for certain whether the visual illusion was intended. What we do know, though, is that Maaike saw what she already knew. Few others had, presumably, because you cannot see what you do not know.

This site is dedicated to helping users see art the way the artist intended and therefore to understand, at least in part, his or her message too. Here at site-HQ we couldn't be happier that Maaike saw what she did.

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