My father-in-law has a painting by Vu Cao Dam of two girls and a man on horseback. He found a hidden fox in the painting, and today we were looking at it and found some more.

What do you call it when an artist intentionally puts a hidden image within a larger work of art? My father-in-law swears there is a word, and that it is a general term which can apply to different media. It can apply to actors who make cameos or easter eggs in software.

What word is this?

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    A bit off-topic, but this reminds me of steganography, which refers to the hiding of messages, often in clever ways. It has had something of a resurgence in the digital age. – Stuart Allen Jun 29 '11 at 3:14
  • Ever read "The Mezzotint"? – Thursagen Jun 29 '11 at 5:08

As per snubian I suggest steganograph.

  • I'd be inclined to use that word only for textual information or, as a recent extension to the meaning, digital information encoded in the actual bits of a computer encoding of the image. – Jon Hanna Jan 20 '13 at 0:42
  • How do you pronounce it? steh-NAG-oh-graph? STEG-uh-nuh-graph? Something else? – Mitch Mar 6 '13 at 21:00
  • Definitely not Steh NAG, since it's spelled "stegan". I go with your second choice. – Hellion Mar 7 '13 at 2:41

The term anamorphosis seems to be close – it describes a type of concealed image that requires viewing either through/with a special device, or from a particular perspective, in order to reveal a feature or shape that is not immediately apparent to the casual observer.

I have also discovered that 2D optical illusions bearing hidden 3D projections that your brain can be tricked into seeing, (Magic Eye-type images), are called autostereograms.


I would call it a hidden, double, multiple, or ambiguous image; or, if the hidden image were especially non-sequitorial, perhaps "a shining example of the paranoiac-critical method". Some hidden images are due to the Figure-Ground phenomenon, others are due to Gestalt, others I'm sure are due to other things. Other than "easter egg", though, I can't really think of another alternative. Perhaps the links will have something I missed.

P.s. Dali's The Endless Enigma is the best example of multiple hidden or ambiguous images that I know of.


Visual penetration, which allows a special point of focus.

  • Visual penetration! That's an interesting word. Do you have any references? Inspiration for this answer? – Mohit Mar 8 '13 at 6:51

protected by RegDwigнt Mar 6 '13 at 18:59

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