Animation of optical illusion disc with a face catching a ball and a man with blackface taking a bow

  • Year: 1833
  • Location: Haymarket, London, England

This animation illustrates the illusion of motion created when this hand-colored, lithographed disc is spun, depicting a face catching a ball in a circle at the center of the disc and a man with blackface taking a bow in a circle at the outer edge of the disc. The disc, designed to be spun on a spindle, and observed in a mirror, was originally published in McLean’s optical illusions; or magic panorama, in 1833. Thomas McLean was a printseller and publisher in London who specialized in political caricatures. 

Blackface was a performance tradition in the American theater for roughly 100 years beginning around 1830. It quickly became popular in Britain as well, where the tradition lasted longer than in the United States. In both the United States and Britain, blackface was most commonly used in the minstrel performance tradition, which it both predated and outlasted.

Animation of optical illusion disc with a face catching a ball and a man with blackface taking a bow is available in the public domain via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported .

Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Division | Source: Wikimedia Commons

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