Droste effect

17 01 2010


The Droste effect is a specific kind of recursive picture[1], one that in heraldry is termed mise en abyme. An image exhibiting the Droste effect depicts a smaller version of itself in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear. This smaller version then depicts an even smaller version of itself in the same place, and so on. Only in theory could this go on forever; practically, it continues only as long as the resolution of the picture allows, which is relatively short, since each iteration exponentially reduces the picture’s size. It is a visual example of a strange loop, a self-referential system of instancing.


The effect is named after a particular image that appeared, with variations, on the tins and boxes of Droste cocoa powder, one of the main Dutch brands. It displays a nurse carrying a serving tray with a cup of hot chocolate and a box of the same brand.[2] The brand’s effect, maintained for decades, became a household notion. Reportedly, poet and columnist Nico Scheepmaker introduced wider usage of the term in the late 1970s.[3]


The Droste effect is not a recent idea. It was for instance used by Giotto di Bondone in 1320, in his Stefaneschi Triptych. The polyptych altarpiece portrays in its center panel Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani Stefaneschi offering the triptych itself to St. Peter[4]. There are also several examples from medieval times of books featuring images containing the book itself or window panels in churches depicting miniature copies of the window panel itself. See the collection of articles Medieval mise-en-abyme: the object depicted within itself[5] for examples and opinions on how this effect was used symbolically


I look at you like in a mirror, to dizziness,” – a line of this song is the best fit to the data collection of photos.

The technical term for the illusion used in these photographs — „effect Droste”. This effect is called in 1904 in honor of, strangely enough, a package of cocoa brand Droste. The picture, showing the effect Droste, depicts a smaller version of himself in the place where this picture was supposed to appear. This smaller version, in turn, represents an even smaller version of himself in the same place, and so on to infinity. If you gaze long into these photos, you can inspect to dizziness.






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