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Creator: M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher (full name: Maurits Cornelius Escher) was a Dutch graphical artist whose art is known for being both mathematical in nature and brain-bending. Some common elements in his prints include:

  • Structures or situations in which each individual element is plausible, but which become impossible when taken as a whole.
  • Tessellations — that is, patterns which could extend over the entire plane if repeated indefinitely.

Many works will reference some of these constructions he invented or popularized — some common choices are Relativity, a room with various staircases and landings using different directions of gravity, Drawing Hands, in which two hands are each drawing the other into existence, and Ascending and Descending, a staircase which goes up or down forever (based on the Penrose Stairway).

(Escher also happens to be a close contemporary of René Magritte, whose works also mess with the viewers' heads, though not in the same way.)

A long list of Escher in popular culture can be found in this page.

Oh, just to mention, he's also "Weird Al" Yankovic's favorite MC.

Often works through Perspective Magic. A lot of Alien Geometries are based on his work. For more information on his techniques, see Graphical Perspective.


References to his works:

To Relativity

Anime and Manga
  • An episode of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei concludes with a fake show-within-a-show involving the character Kaere as a Hot Teacher. Since she's teaching geometry, she's shown strolling through several famous Escher works.
  • The first time we meet the Godhand in Berserk, they're in a Relativity-esque dimension filled with multidirectional staircases and a shot that resembles Another World.

Comic Books
  • A strip in an early issue of Marvel's Epic Illustrated is about a demonic architect boasting to a lady friend about the new house he's designed, which is finally revealed to be based on a mixture of Relativity and other works. The strip concludes with a dedication "to MCE" in the shape of Escher's own logo.
Film
  • Labyrinth: The Goblin King's final chamber was clearly based on this, and Sarah has a print of Relativity in her room.

Literature
  • Protector by Larry Niven: Jack Brennan uses gravity generators to build Relativity inside his mad scientist-style castle.
  • In Half World, by Hiromi Goto, Melanie's mother keeps Escher prints on the wall. Later, when Melanie goes Down the Rabbit Hole, to the magical realm Half World, the staircases go both up and down like Relativity.

Live-Action TV
  • Warehouse 13 has the "Escher Vault," which is a room constructed like Relativity, which is constantly changing at high speed. You need special equipment of one kind or another to get through it. According to Mrs Frederic, at least one Warehouse Agent has gotten lost in the room because they forgot to wear safety goggles when venturing inside and hasn't been seen since.

Theme Parks
  • The Haunted Mansion at Disney World now includes a "Relativity" room, complete with ghostly footprints appearing on the steps, usually at extreme angles to the direction of gravity.

Video Games
  • Ipsen's Castle in Final Fantasy IX seems to be based on this. Described as an architectural marvel, many rooms are upside down and in one room the visitor has to slide up a pole. While in Ipsen's Castle, weapons will do more damage the lower their attack power is.
  • A choice adventure in the Kingdom of Loathing - more specifically, the Haunted Art Gallery - starts here, and all directions seem to be as if this work was providing directions (up, down, or sideways).
  • In King's Quest VII, you have to get through a room shaped like this in Archduke Fifi's manor.
  • Echochrome is a puzzle game based on the works of M. C. Escher. The geometries are as weird as you might expect.
    • To elaborate, in the game, you are allowed to "cheat" the laws of perspective because only the camera angle's perspective counts as "real". If there is a beam covering up a hole, the hole then ceases to exist. This is a necessary skill to guide the main characternote  to safety.

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation
  • One of the apartments Fry and Bender look at in the Futurama episode "I, Roommate". Bender fell down, up, and across the stairs.
  • Briefly seen in The Simpsons Movie during Homer's dream quest, with the stairs shaped like the inside of Homer's head. One of the show's Couch Gags uses it too.
  • Family Guy referenced it twice. Once Stewie obtained a copy while posing as Brian's college roommate; on another occasion Peter referenced "that rap video by MC Escher", prompting a cut to Escher dressed as MC Hammer doing an incredibly bad rap song and dancing on the stairs.
    Stewie: I think it's called... Crazy Stairs...
  • In "The Doof Side of the Moon" of Phineas and Ferb, the same coaster goes through such a room on four different tracks at the same time, as Phineas explains that it's 'the M.C. Escher Floor!'
    • Even earlier, in "Gaming the System", they made a section of their video game based on Relativity.
  • A version appears in Jackie Chan Adventures, in the Lotus Temple.
  • In the second episode of Drawn Together, Toots convinces Clara she's pregnant after her Les Yay kiss with Foxxy, just so she can push her down a flight of stairs for laughs. When Clara "still smells pregnant," they next try the "MC Escher room," where Clara falls down the iconic set of circling stairs for like three minutes to kill her non-existent baby. Yes, it was that kind of show.

To other works

Film
  • Christopher Nolan was inspired by Escher in Inception, which has two sets of Ascending and Descending (and hence Penrose stairs)-inspired stairs: Arthur shows a fairly large one to Ariadne during her training and later makes good with an ass-kicking use of a second one in the second dream level's hotel.
  • Escher's work Eye is seen in Donnie Darko, as a poster on Donnie's wall.

Literature
  • In the Discworld novel Moving Pictures, the layout of the Library of Unseen University is described as "a topographical nightmare, [...] that would make M. C. Escher go for a good lie down, or possibly sideways." In Guards! Guards!!, old-fashioned bookshops are said to be looking like "as though they were designed by M.C. Escher on a bad day".
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach includes (along with many other references to Escher, as one might infer from the title) a dialogue in which the characters find themselves inside "Convex and Concave" and "Reptiles".

Live-Action TV

Music

Newspaper Comics

Short Film
  • The animated short Hallucii features Penrose stairs in an urban environment.

Video Games
  • Illusions was based on elements of several Escher prints.
  • Dante's Inferno has a room evocative of "Other World".
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess features the Oocca, which resemble the human-bird... things in Another World.
  • In AdventureQuest Worlds, the town of Mobius is the victim of the First Lord of Chaos: Escherion. The entire quest chain to confront him is filled with M.C. Escher references, fitting of a Lord of Chaos.
  • In Chrono Cross, a sojourn through a place that appears to be outside reality, or something, features a tower with an endless staircase like that in Ascending and Descending.
  • In Quest for Glory I, when you navigate the Brigand warlock's maze, one of the comments you make is that M.C. Escher would love this place. The maze in question is somewhat reminiscent of Relativity, but also of other Escher drawings.
  • The 78th level of Lemmings is titled "Tribute to M.C. Escher". The main solution to the level involves building a confusing zigzag stairway.

Web Original
  • The SCP Foundation references the Penrose staircase of Ascending and Descending when a living drawing is asked to walk it. She thinks it's neat, and asks why more stairways aren't like this.
  • In the Furcadia contest dream "Puzzle Mansion", the stairway works like this.

Western Animation


Will EisnerArtistsPaul Faris
Harlan EllisonSpeculative Fiction Creator IndexLawrence Watt-Evans
Louis XIVUseful NotesMalcolm X

alternative title(s): MC Escher
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