A cylindrical catoptric anamorphic image, combining a diagram from Vaulezard's work with a distortion of the Utah teapot. Through the process itself, straight lines of light unfold in curves, in a shape that ressembles the teapot in its minimalist wireframe representation.

In 1630, the year Boston was founded, Jean-Louis Sieur de Vaulezard published his "Perspective cilindrique et conique, ou Traicté des apparences veuës par le moyen des miroirs cilindriques et côniques, soient convexes ou concaves" (Cylindrical and conical perspective, or treatise on appearances seen using cylindrical and conical mirrors, either convex or concave). It proposed the first known geometric (we would now call it ray-traced) solution to the construction of catoptric anamorphosis images. Such images had been popular in Europe for more than a decade, and were also known in China. It has been conjectured that, as tea, they were introduced to Europe from China. Before Vaulezard, catoptric anamorphosis was realized using polar-grid approximations, or by painting while looking through a mirror.

Contemporary lectures on catoptric anamorphosis often relate it to a juncture point between art and science, or mathematics, where computer graphics is often located. Even in a media-rich era, this geometric optical transformation continues to fascinate. The iconic Utah teapot appeared in the 1976 paper describing reflection mechanism and texture mapping. Figure 5 of that paper showed the cylindrical anamorphosis of a photograph as an illustration of the power of the technique.

In this work, while the cylindrical mirror reveals the original image, the anisotropic scaling of the diagram's pixels induced by the mapping emphasizes the discrete nature of the image.

Guy Godin
National Research Council Canada
guy.godin (at) nrc-cnrc.gc.ca