Novella 32 of Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptameron (1559) recounts a French ambassador’s macabre tale of adultery and punishment, in which a husband forces his wife to drink from the skull of her dead lover. This study argues that the progressive revelation of the secret behind her punishment hinges on an anamorphic vision inscribed both thematically and structurally within the textual fabric of the tale. When Novella 32 was composed, anamorphic images were circulating throughout Europe. In perhaps the most famous example of anamorphosis, Hans Holbein the Younger’s The Ambassadors (1533), a distorted object at the bottom of the canvas resolves itself into a skull when the viewer steps to the side of the portrait and looks across the canvas at an extreme oblique angle. A comparison of Novella 32 with this and other anamorphic paintings reveals a previously unnoticed anamorphic landscape located between secrecy, complicity, and interpretation.
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