Abstract (Droste)

I have decided to keep on the theme of abstract imagery and today I have been looking at “The Droste Effect”

What is The Droste Effect ?

The Droste effect — known as mise en abyme in art — is the effect of a picture appearing within itself, in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear. The appearance is recursive: the smaller version contains an even smaller version of the picture, 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 geometrically reduces the picture’s size. It is a visual example of a strange loop, a self-referential system of instancing which is the cornerstone of fractal geometry.


The effect is named after the image on the tins and boxes of Droste cocoa powder, one of the main Dutch brands, which displayed a nurse carrying a serving tray with a cup of hot chocolate and a box with the same image. This image, introduced in 1904 and maintained for decades with slight variations, became a household notion. Reportedly, poet and columnist Nico Scheepmaker introduced wider usage of the term in the late 1970s.


Droste Nurse Image.
The woman holds an object bearing a smaller image of her holding the same object, which in turn bears a smaller image of her holding the same object, and so on. Image believed to have been created by Jan (Johannes) Musset, being inspired by a pastel known as La Belle Chocolatière (“The Pretty Chocolate Girl”).


The Chocolate Girl (French: La Belle Chocolatière, German: Das Schokoladenmädchen) is one of the most prominent pastels of Swiss artist Jean-Étienne Liotard, showing a chocolate-serving maid. The girl carries a tray with a porcelain chocolate mug and a glass of water. Liotard’s contemporaries classed The Chocolate Girl as his masterpiece.

Wikipedia. 2013. Droste Effect. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droste_effect [Accessed: 17 Dec 2013].

Wikipedia. 2013. The Chocolate Girl. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chocolate_Girl [Accessed: 17 Dec 2013].

Example of an image with The Droste Effect


Droste Image
Image Credit: Mayone1
Original: Stephanie Vacher

Flickr. 2013. trufflepig droste copy. [online] Available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/manyone/804054500/in/pool-escherdroste/ [Accessed: 17 Dec 2013].

Flickr. 2013. hehe. [online] Available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/trufflepig/384422727 [Accessed: 17 Dec 2013].

My Images


“Time at a Snails Pace”, 2013
© Richard Brochu-Williams


“Ben”, 2013
© Richard Brochu-Williams

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