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An extremum principle is developed that determines three-dimensional surface orientation from a two-dimensional contour. The principle maximizes the ratio of the area to the square of the perimeter, a measure of the compactness or symmetry of the three-dimensional surface. The principle interprets regular figures correctly and it interprets skew symmetries as oriented real symmetries. The maximum likelihood method approximates the principle on irregular figures, but we show that it consistently overestimates the slant of an ellipse.