Universiteit Leiden

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Escher and the Droste effect

Artful Mathematics: The Heritage of M. C. Escher

Hendrik Lenstra
NWO Spinoza grant NWO Spinoza grant

In 1956 the Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898–1972) made an unusual lithograph with the title Prentententoonstelling. It shows a young man standing in an exhibition gallery, viewing a print of a Mediterranean seaport. 

This project aims to visualize the mathematical structure behind Escher's Print Gallery (prentententoonstelling).

This mathematical structure answers some questions about Escher's picture, such as: "what's in the blurry white hole in the middle?" By a five step process a wide variety of different pictures has been made, such as a straight picture, and a picture twisting the other way.

See our article [PDF] in the Notices of the AMS for the full mathematical story.

This project is an initiative of Hendrik Lenstra of the Universiteit Leiden. and the University of California at Berkeley. Bart de Smit of the Universiteit Leiden runs the project. Joost Batenburg wrote the C++ programs to manipulate the images.