Mathematics Colloquia and Seminars

Return to Colloquia & Seminar listing

Escher and the Droste effect

Special Events

Speaker: Professor Hendrik Lenstra, Jr., University of California, Berkeley and Universiteit Leiden
Location: 2205 Haring
Start time: Mon, May 19 2003, 2:10PM

In 1956, the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher made an unusual lithograph with the title `Print Gallery'. It shows a young man viewing a print in an exhibition gallery. Amongst the buildings depicted on the print, he sees paradoxically the very same gallery that he is standing in. A lot is known about the way in which Escher made his lithograph. It is not nearly as well known that it contains a hidden `Droste effect', or infinite repetition; but this is brought to light by a mathematical analysis of the studies used by Escher.

On the basis of this discovery, a team of mathematicians at Leiden produced a series of hallucinating computer animations. These show, among others, what happens inside the mysterious spot in the middle of the lithograph that Escher left blank.