Silence of the Lambs

Silence of the Lambs Death's Head Moth

Hidden nude orgy skull in Silence of the Lambs movie poster

Jodie Foster and the Skull Orgy

As some of you may know, there is nothing we love more than discussing hidden imagery in movie poster one-sheets. It’s like Hollywood’s version of a hidden 3D poster you saw at the mall as a kid: stare at it long enough, and you are bound to find something. An impressive variation on this “hidden gem” idea is when the extra discovery actually contributes to the design of the poster itself. This idea brings us to the U.S. domestic one-sheet for the Oscar winning film Silence of the Lambs.

When a designer hides or adds a less than overt element to a composition it is sometimes called a secondary image or second read. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo. You’ve looked at something countless times only to discover something new (or like most of us, have it pointed out to you).

Silence of the Lambs movie poster

Silence of the Lambs movie poster

In the Silence of the Lambs movie poster, Jodie Foster’s face is given a high contrast treatment with a large moth placed over her mouth. Looking closer at the moth, we notice a subtle skull on the head of the butterfly — the so-called “death’s head” moth from the film. A striking image, which matches the dark tone of the film itself.

In the Silence of the Lambs image, the ambiguous skull on the moth is actually made up of seven naked female bodies. The image of the “skull orgy” originated in a portrait photograph by Philippe Halsman of Salvador Dali, entitled Salvador Dali In Voluptate Mors. (The photo itself was inspired by surrealist Dali’s gouache Female Bodies as a Skull painting. Dali later translated the same idea into his own live nude sculptures.) The Lambs one-sheet was created by the (now defunct) film advertising agency Dazu, and the skull image idea was reportedly given to the agency by director Jonathan Demme specifically for use in the film’s poster artwork.

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  1. adminApril 30, 2005 at 3:25 PMReply

    By the way, I’ve had trouble locating an online image of Salvador Dali’s original drawing / gouache painting of Female Bodies as a Skull, so if anyone has any link suggestions for the image, it would be appreciated.

  2. Movie City IndieMay 1, 2005 at 2:12 PMReply

    Getting into Jodie’s skull

    Posterwire has another one of their knowing deconstructions of the one-sheet game, this time the skulls in paper for Silence of the Lambs: “As some of you may know, there is nothing we love more than discussing hidden imagery in…

  3. Mediafreaks.orgMay 2, 2005 at 10:33 AMReply

    Hidden image in Silence of the Lambs poster.

    Posterwire got a pretty interesting article about a hidden Dali image in the Silence of the Lambs poster.

  4. koyanMay 15, 2005 at 3:57 AMReply

    The secret quote that I saw nowhere: The moth with that scull (with exactly the same pattern of the women), was first seen in the movie of Luis Bunuel Un Chien Andalou that Bunuel made with his good friend Dali on 1929.
    So, Jonathan Demme must have asked that from the agency as a tribute to Bunuel and Dali, having seen their movie.

  5. koyanMay 15, 2005 at 3:58 AMReply

    And a small bad quolity ss from that movie:

  6. Silence of the Descent « « the movie poster weblogJune 2, 2008 at 12:06 PMReply

    […] skull. This “skull orgy” may look familiar to many of you, as it is based on the same skull image featured on the “death’s head moth” found in The Silence of the Lambs movie […]

  7. AddToDesign – 12 Classic Movie Poster DesignsAugust 9, 2010 at 3:48 AMReply

    […] is unsettling and scary, just like the movie, and has far more substance than it initially appears. Here is an analysis from PosterWire, examining the poster’s hidden images and rather dark […]

  8. Mensagem subliminar ou mensagem escondida? | Andeon’s BlogNovember 28, 2010 at 10:13 PMReply

    […] foi inspirada na fotografia “Salvador Dali Em Voluptate Mors” como pode ser lido no  Inclusive ele foi eleito o melhor poster dos últimos 35 anos pela Key Art Awards. Esquerda: […]

  9. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | All Films BlogJuly 1, 2011 at 11:01 AMReply

    […] […]

  10. El silencio de Philippe Halsman | El blog de Juan DiegoAugust 7, 2011 at 6:34 PMReply

    […] me ha gustado este detallito del cartel de El silencio de los […]

  11. The Framers » Blog Archive » Death’s Head Hawk MothFebruary 23, 2012 at 10:38 AMReply

    […] I’d like to think we can frame almost anything, here we framed a Death-Head Hawkmoth, so called because of the “skull” in it’s back pattern. Nicely box framed, actually an obscure film memorabilia piece as this species was used in the film Silence of the Lambs. […]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP ( doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP ( and so is spam.

  12. In Voluptate MorsOctober 24, 2012 at 3:43 AMReply

    […] Hera and Posterwire span#more-33505 { display: block; margin-bottom: 19px; […]

  13. JohnDecember 5, 2019 at 11:40 AMReply

    I’ve always wondered if it was inspired by the cover of the Genesis album “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”.

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