Droste Effect

Droste Effect

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Updated Jan 14, 2018 at 05:12PM EST by Brad.

Added Nov 14, 2011 at 08:06PM EST by Don.

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Droste Effect refers to an artistic technique that creates a recursive picture in which a smaller version of the image is placed inside itself repeatedly. In still images, the recursion is limited by the fixed resolution of the picture but can repeat as an infinite loop in animations.


Art History

According to Wikipedia[1], the first known Droste effect image was a triptych from 1320 by Italian artist Giotto di Bondone called the "Stefaneschi Altarpiece." In the painting, the Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani Stefaneschi is holding the exact same painting he is featured in. The name for the technique originates in 1904 from the cover art for the Dutch Droste cocoa powder that featured a nurse holding a serving tray with the same box of cocoa powder on the tray.

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Animated GIFs

Droste effect animated GIFs can be made to loop so that it appears to be infinitely zooming in on the image. One of the earliest known Droste effect GIF fads was inspired by an image called "Fractal Grandma" that featured a woman in a blue shirt wearing a duplicate of herself on her hand. The first known posting of the image comes from a post on the image site Moonbuggy[2], that was cached by Google on November 7th, 2007. A YTMND page using the same image titled “Recursive Grandmother”[3] was created on May 6th, 2008. On September 3rd, 2009, an edited version with Gary Busey’s head was posted to YTMND.[4]


Several pages worth of Droste effect images can be found on Tumblr[10], Flickr[8] and deviantArt.[7] The first relevant deviantArt[13] image was titled "Picture in Picture" and was posted by user nlife on November 26th, 2004. The first Droste effect Flickr[14] image was titled "Honey I Escherized the kids!" and was submitted by user Seb Przd on July 6th, 2006. An explanation of the mathematics behind the Droste effect was posted to the Mathematical Imagery[6] blog on December 26th, 2008. A round-up of Droste effect images was posted to the photo blog Pixzii[5] on December 31st, 2009. A Facebook[9] fan page has 113 likes as of November 15th, 2011.

Usage in Video Art

The collaborative art project Zoomquilt[11] that featured a looped zoom flash animation taking the viewer through several different paintings was created in 2004. The sequel Zoomquilt 2[12] was published in November of 2007.

The music video directors Alex and Martin made a Droste effect style video for the song "Seven Nation Army" by the rock band The White Stripes in 2003. The video appears as if it is one long shot that zooms into a tunnel of black, white and red triangles.

On September 2nd, 2008, a music video was uploaded to Vimeo using the Droste effect by user OneInThree for the song "Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants" by the Wild Beasts. On September 8th, 2008, Director Frank Beltrán uploaded a Droste effect music video to Vimeo for the song "Clap your brains off" by the Mexican band No Somos Machos Pero Muchos.

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