Escher and the Droste Effect

  • Speaker
  • Hendrik Lenstra, Ph.D.Professor Emeritus of Fundamental and Applied Mathematics, Mathematisch Instituut, Universiteit Leiden
Date & Time


About Simons Foundation Lectures

Simons Foundation Lectures are free public colloquia related to basic science and mathematics. These high-level talks are intended for professors, students, postdocs and business professionals, but interested people from the metropolitan area are welcome as well.

In 1956, the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher made an unusual lithograph. Titled “Prentententoonstelling” (or, “Print Gallery”), the piece shows a young man standing in an exhibition gallery viewing a print of a Mediterranean seaport. Among the buildings depicted in the twisting print, the man paradoxically sees the very same gallery in which he is standing. Curiously, Escher left the middle of the lithograph blank, filling it with only his monogram and signature.

In this lecture, Hendrik W. Lenstra will discuss interactions between mathematics and M.C. Escher’s artwork. A mathematical analysis of the methods used by Escher leads to a series of hallucinating computer animations that show, among others, what’s in the blurry blank hole in the middle of the piece.

About the Speaker

Lenstra received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the Universiteit van Amsterdam in 1977. He was a full professor at the university from 1978 until 1986, and then at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1987 until 2003, and since 1998 at the Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands. Lenstra is best known for introducing advanced techniques in the area of number-theoretic algorithms. These techniques have important applications in computer security. Lenstra has been a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Science since 1984 and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1996. In 1998, he won the Spinoza Award, the highest scientific honor in the Netherlands.

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