I stumbled upon this fact but I can't seem to understand the websites that are trying to explain it. I could only understand wikipedia's explanation

This psychological effect is often used in the cinema, where an actor will be shown apparently looking at himself or herself in the mirror. What viewers see is different from what the actor sees, because the camera is not right behind the actor, but the position of the actor is often chosen so that his or her image is nicely framed in the mirror for the camera.

but I don't think my understanding is sufficient.

So correct me if I'm wrong but, the idea is that, contrary to our quick assumptions, Venus isn't actually admiring herself in the mirror but she's actually looking at the viewer (me)? Am I right?

I'm just wondering why all the other websites are talking about mirror angles, like how she actually would not be able to see her face (really?) and there's one saying that Venus' face is actually between me (the viewer) and the mirror, uhhh what? So does that mean she's actually painting herself?

I'm so confused.


1 Answer 1


The Venus Effect is just as you understand it. The painting the effect is referring to is depicting the woman admiring herself in the mirror, when in fact, if you study it properly you will see that she would not be able to see herself in the mirror, but she wuld be able to see the artist (or you) as the viewer.

If you look at the diagrams I put together below, you will see from the first diagram how the venus effect works.

Venus Effect - Venus viewed by the viewer
Image 1: The Venus Effect in play. The viewer can see Venus, but there is no way Venus can see herself, when in fact she can see the viewer in the mirror.

No Venus Effect
Image 2: The Venus Effect is not in play. The viewer cannot see Venus, Venus can see herself, and she cannot see the viewer


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