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Droste Image

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An image that contains a smaller replica of itself, which (being a replica of the image) contains a smaller replica of itself, which contains ... well, you get the idea. Like a fractal, but without all the complicated math. The more formal name for this is "infinite regression"; in art history the term "mise en abyme" is used.

For instance, take this cover of Spoof which shows the characters holding a copy of that very comic, whose cover depicts them holding ... a copy of the very same comic (with the same cover). Theoretically, there could be infinite recursion of that comic book in the image, though it's safe to assume that the printer doesn't have enough resolution to reproduce them all. (It's the thought that counts!)note 

A similar effect can be set up in a Hall of Mirrors by standing between two mirrors facing each other.

See also Nested Stories and Dream Within a Dream, which has the layering but not the self-similarity. Also see Recursive Reality which is this trope on a cosmic level.


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  • The Trope Namer is Droste cocoa powder, made by a Dutch food company that was famous for using this trope in their ads. See the Wikipedia article.
  • Seen on several cereal packages. You know, the type that features a picture of somebody having breakfast. Said breakfast of course centers on the cereal, with a package proudly displayed. On that package, we see somebody having said cereals for breakfast. And so on...
  • Royal Baking Powder.
  • Land O'Lakes Butter.
  • Nippon Paint used to have this on cans of Pylox spray paint, where what appears to be a hand belonging to a woman is holding a can of Pylox, whose can shows the same thing over and over. Newer cans did away with this, although a vector drawing of a hand holding the paint can be seen.
  • This cover of the German magazine "Amiga Joker".
  • La Vache qui rit. French cartoonist Gotlib parodied this for his series of exhibitionism gags: the cow opens her cloak to show a cow which opens her cloak etc.
  • Science mag "Nature" (issue #7476) illustrates an article about science replication with a Droste image.
  • Mackó sajt, a Hungarian cheese brand.
  • Almost all covers of the chess series by GM Csaba Balogh. Example
  • Borax laundry detergent boxes feature a cowgirl holding up a copy of the box she is on.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer had a scene where Ataru is in a room in the school building, looks through the doorway, and sees on the other side of the door the same room that he's in, complete with himself and the doorway, and past that doorway is the same room again, etc. It seems that space itself is forming loops; earlier there was a scene where we see Mendo run up the stairs past the "camera", only to reappear coming up the same stair and go past the camera again.
  • The final shot of Owarimonogatari's first opening.
  • Thoth from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders is a comic book which depicts events in the near future that are guaranteed to happen, but heavily subject to Prophecy Twists. The zenith of this occurs when it shows what appears to be bullets going through Jotaro's head, but turns out to be bullets going through a picture of Jotaro's head—the same picture its user just saw. Turns out any of Thoth's prophecies might be depicting its own pages in the future.
  • The inside front cover for volume 3 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has a scene where the inside covers of the previous two volumes are depicted as two schoolgirls (the pages are wearing Sailor Fuku). Naturally, the inside back cover is the inside back cover as another girl.
    ''Volume 3 Inside Back Cover Sempai!"
  • In Cells at Work! episode 5, Red Blood Cell lets out one of her typical scream upon seeing a cedar pollen. There is a zoom on her eye, where the pollen is reflected, zooming further on its eye, where Red Blood Cell is reflected, with again another zoom on her eye, etc., etc.

  • M.C. Escher's "Print Gallery" is a very unusual take on this concept: It only shows one copy of the picture, but implies an infinite recursion all the same, using uneven magnification to make the contents of the picture merge with their real-world analogues.
    • The Dutch mathematicians Bart de Smit and Hendrik Lenstra calculated that the blank area at the center would contain a copy of the original picture (scaled down by a factor of 22.5 and rotated by 158 degrees), and created a version where the blank area is filled (as well as many variants thereof with different curvatures).

    Comic Books 
  • In comics, it's called an infinity cover.
  • An issue of Runaways has Victor, a cyborg who was (unknowingly) being used to spy on the team, discover the TV screen where the camera in his eyes feeds back to. The result is himself, watching himself watching himself, watching himself watching himself watching himself, watching himself watching himself watching...
  • The cover of the Doom Patrol comic "The Painting that ate Paris" also has such a shot.
  • Used in The Beano back in 1954.
  • The cover of the one-shot ElfQuest anthology "Bedtime Stories" is like this.
  • The Simpsons: Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror II had this.
  • French cartoonist Gotlib had one in his "Exhibitionist" gags, with a cow opening her cloak to show a cow opening her cloak, etc. The cow is "La Vache qui rite" and most probably he got the inspiration from her Droste-style ad.
  • Another Gotlib Droste is Gay-Luron dreaming of Gay-Luron dreaming of... (Fluide Glaciale, April 1975)
  • Subverted with this old Charles Addams cartoon.
  • In the comic Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, the author theorizes that the pictures of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il have this effect.
  • The Life Story of Superman: The cover of Action Comics #500 features Superman staring at Supergirl and Lois Lane holding the cover of Action Comics #500 featuring Superman staring at Supergirl and Lois Lane holding the cover of Action Comics #500 featuring Superman staring at Supergirl and Lois Lane holding the cover of Action Comics #500 featuring...
  • The 2017 Free Comic Book Day issue of Buffy: The High School Years has Miss Summers casually staking a vampire while reading a copy of the very same comic. You'd be forgiven for thinking she had reached the point in the story where the vampire attacked her.
  • The first page of the Flare story "Cat-Fight!" has one in the second panel.
  • The cover to Batman Incorporated vol 2 #13 shows Batman leaping at the reader with his Chest Insignia rendered as an image of Batman leaping at the reader, and so on.
  • In issue #1 of the DC comic book based on Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter decides he wants to be in his own comic book. His invention, the Kirbytron 2000 succeeds in putting Dexter in his own comic book, the same one the reader happens to be reading.

    Comic Strips 
  • Crabgrass: This comic, Kevin and Miles discuss such an image (which they found on a book cover). The logic of how it could be achieved proves too much for Kevin.
  • Garfield: The title panel of this Sunday comic from 1992 shows a picture of Garfield reading the comics...with a picture of himself reading the comics, etc.
  • Subverted with this New Yorker cartoon by Charles Addams.
  • This Non Sequitur comic strip about an artist who's rent is due the next day but is stuck in a rut.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Incredibles 2, Elastigirl sees a screencap from her bodycam of her battle with the Screenslaver in the Screenslaver's lair and notices that one of the monitors has the exact same image from the feed, which brings her one step closer to finding out the Screenslaver's true identity.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the end of All About Eve, when Eve has supplanted Margot and has a Loony Fan/Stalker with a Crush of her own hanging around her hotel room, the fan tries on her cape and poses in front of the mirrors holding the award Eve has just won, and a shot of hundreds of images of her from all angles indicates that the cycle is endless and there are infinite Eves out there.
  • Airplane! uses this when the air traffic controller, McCroskey, adopts a thoughtful pose in front of a framed photograph of himself holding the same pose. Airplane II: The Sequel then poses McCroskey in front of a framed photo of himself posing in front of the framed photograph of himself.
  • Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes: The original Japanese title translates to "We on the Edge of the Droste." The cast discovers that two screens are connected to each other, one displaying two minutes into the future. They point the screens at each other to send messages back to each other from beyond the two-minute limit, having been inspired by Droste images. The guy who figures it out illustrates his point through a box of tea that features a Droste image.
  • This effect is captured in Citizen Kane when Kane passes between two mirrors. Orson Welles did this again in The Lady from Shanghai in a Hall of Mirrors sequence.
  • Biff in his office in Back to the Future Part II, standing in front of a painting portraying him in a similar pose.
  • Happens to Doctor Strange during his trip through the Multiverse, as he nears Dormammu.
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes uses this as a metaphor for Time Travel: A painting that contains an infinite regress of images including the painter himself.
  • Near the end of Hardcore Henry, Henry is watching the Big Bad explain his plan on a large wall-sized screen. The feed then cuts to the point of view of a freshly-awakened cyborg, and the first clue that Henry has that he's in trouble is when that view displays his own back repeated to infinity in the screen.
  • A magic-induced variation appears in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The fraudulent, highly decorated, egotistical Gilderoy Lockhart has a portrait of himself in his classroom at Hogwarts... actively painting another picture of himself. When the pixies are released and cause chaos, the Lockhart in the portrait flees the frame just as Lockhart does.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the cover of the textbook Dark Arts Defence - Basics for Beginners (which replaces Defensive Magical Theory from the original book) features a young witch and wizard surrounded by black cats and reading a copy of the book with the cover facing out.
  • In Hot Fuzz, the shot of Simon Skinner's smiling face in front of a photo of himself smiling. A more easily missed example occurs in the very first shot of the film, when Nicholas Angel marches up to the camera and, scowling, holds up his badge, which has the same scowl. Both shots were made by copying a frame from the film and pasting it onto the photo, so these are true droste images and not just similar.
  • The poster for the horror film I, Madman is a partial example of the trope.
  • While not in the film itself, the box art for ''Memento depicts a Polaroid photo of Leonard that contains a smaller photo of Natalie that contains the same photo of Leonard, and so on.
  • At the beginning of Not Another Teen Movie, Jake Wyler enters the school and first looks at a headshot of his face hanging on the wall, then walks by a second picture featuring himself looking at its own headshot as it happened a few seconds ago.
  • In Nine Miles Down, the protagonist has a (possibly hallucinatory) encounter with this trope, in which every other reflection is a deformed Mirror Monster version of himself. Made far more disturbing when the most distant reflections start shooting themselves in the head, in a wave of suicides that rapidly gets "closer" to the actual character.
  • In Spaceballs, the titular bad guys watch the Spaceballs video tape to find out where the heroes are. Hilarity Ensues when they get to the exact point in the tape that they are in, although the Droste effect is too small to see much of.
  • Early posters for Toys had this, using the space inside the hat.
  • The Hobbit trilogy:
    • In The Desolation of Smaug, after Gandalf is beaten by the Necromancer a.k.a. Sauron, the Necromancer appears as the Eye of Sauron with the pupil in the shape of his humanoid form, itself with a single flaming eye, repeating infinitely from within.
    • Later used to represent Sauron's battle of wills against Galadriel in The Battle of the Five Armies, with the camera at first zooming further and further into the image; as Galadriel gains the upper hand, the constant zoom slows, then begins receding.
  • Happens in The Matrix Reloaded with the Architect. His room's wall is filled with monitors depicting Neo in the room (and his various anticipated reactions), which in turn are rooms with monitors across all walls. There are several transitions where the scene zooms in on whichever monitor corresponds to Neo's actual reaction.
  • Dep. Chief Hardy in 22 Jump Street has a photo hanging on the wall behind his desk—of him sitting at his desk, in the exact same position he's in when the camera catches the photo.

  • "Jack's Story" from The Stinky Cheese Man could be considered a print version of this, as it features an infinite regression of the same story nested inside itself. Justified in that he's (Jack, that is,) telling this story to a giant who intends to eat him after he finishes his story. So he tells a story that can be continued for an infinite amount of time, or at least until the giant falls asleep. Which he does. On a later page, we see Jack making a break for it.
  • The cover of Monsters You Never Heard Of has the frightened reader holding a copy of this very book with its cover visible.
  • In The Mouse and His Child, much is made of a particular dog food label depicting a Droste Image of the dog holding the same can, complete with the same picture, continuing down ad nauseam. It's said that some grand revelation lies beyond "The Last Visible Dog", i.e. the smallest iteration that can still be seen.
  • The cover of the Little Golden Book My Christmas Treasury features a little boy and girl, and a cat and dog, sitting on a rug, reading a copy of the same book which features a little boy and girl, and a cat and dog, sitting on a rug...
    • Another Little Golden Book, Baby's First Book, has a similar effect.
  • The Ramona Quimby book Ramona Forever gets its title from a scene where Ramona does this with the angled mirrors in a dressing room.
  • Discworld:
    • In Equal Rites, Simon conjures an image of the Discworld which is amazingly accurate, right down to an image of Simon conjuring an image of the Discworld, and so on. Esk is also fascinated by this effect when cleaning a bathroom in the University; she has an uneasy feeling that one of the multiple reflections, in the very edge of perception, is waving back at her.
    • Paired mirrors that create this effect are a plot element in Witches Abroad.
    • In The Art of Discworld, Paul Kidby's drawing of Dr Whiteface shows him holding a marotte tipped with a whiteface clown that's holding a marotte, and so on and so on.
  • The Peter David Star Trek novel I, Q featured Picard, Q, and Data moving through a Hall of Mirrors. Data naturally stops and stares when two mirrors create such an image. Q can't resist asking him how many reflections he sees... then cuts him off when he starts in the trillions.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Noble House Risley uses the arms: "A black knight on a black rearing horse on white, bearing a golden lance and a white shield, upon which is seen the above in miniature."
  • The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana has a rare conversed example - probably based on a real Italian soda brand.
  • The Lost Princess of Oz has the Wizard creating a hologram observing the villain, who is currently observing them in Ozma's Magic Picture.
  • The front cover of Paul Jennings' Uncollected: Volume 2 depicts a boy reading the book, with the front cover visible.
  • In the X-Storey Treehouse series, each book has pages near the end the depict other pages from the book, including one of the pages in question.
  • The book of The Neverending Story was about a book which became the literary version of this trope, when the person writing the book was ordered to read the very same book they were writing, and they had to keep writing what they were reading while they were reading it, making the story literally never-ending (hence the title). The endless loop can only be broken by Bastion accepting that he can take control and change the story.
  • This happens at the end of the recap in one of the Captain Underpants books.
  • The cover of the tenth Blue Peter book shows the presenters holding up a blue sheet, which has an image of the presenters holding up a red sheet, which has an image of the presenters holding up a yellow sheet, which has an image of the presenters holding up a cyan sheet, which has an image of the presenters holding up a copy of the cover...
  • The front cover of Zoodles, by Bernard Most, features this.
  • The Elephant & Piggie Love Reading picture book I'm ON It! ends with Piggie telling Gerald that he's saved the best for last and opening a copy of the book to those pages, telling Gerald "Now—- we are both IN it!" "Far OUT," agrees Gerald as they look at the image of themselves.
  • The cover of the Arthur picture book Arthur's Really Helpful Bedtime Stories depicts Arthur himself reading a copy of the book.
  • Ray Bradbury's short story "The Illustrated Man" (not to be confused with the separate collection of the same title) has this as one of the titular man's tattoos: the story ends with a crowd of people looking at the tattoo depicting a crowd of people looking at the tattoo, which depicts a crowd of people...

    Live-Action TV 
  • The first episode of The IT Crowd opens with one of these: A shot of Mr. Reynholm at his desk, with an identical scene on a picture hung on the wall. The camera then pans out to reveal another identical scene. When he starts talking, we see that we were actually looking at the picture on the real Mr. Reynholm's wall.
  • Seen at the sign-offs of Syfy launch series Mysteries From Beyond the Other Dominion, with the shot of Ruehl repeated in the window-box.
  • Square One TV did something similar to teach viewers the concept of infinity.
  • During Steve Martin's "I'm Me" song on Saturday Night Live, he notices a monitor showing live footage of him, thus creating this effect. "It's me, watching me, watching me!"
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, Decade's Transformation Sequence into his Complete Form invokes elements of this. Decade has a card of himself in Complete Form located on his forehead. Which has a card of that on its forehead, and so on. The sequence repeatedly zooms in on Decade's forehead of infinity until he's suited up.
  • An episode of Happy Endings had Jane doing a slide presentation of her father's interests, one of which was "old-timey slide projectors." The accompanying visual was somewhat unsettling...
  • In the end of an episode of Rutland Weekend Television, one of the announcers is reading the credits for the show. The credits in the script he's reading stop around a certain point, however, so he runs up to a television monitor showing the show so he can read the credits on the screen out loud instead. The monitor, behind the credits, shows him reading from the screen which, behind the credits, shows him reading from the screen...however, he doesn't read quickly enough. Hilarity Ensues.
    • One episode also uses a "Bohemian Rhapsody" style video feedback effect (see below) during a "performance" by an up-and-coming singer whose gimmick is... he's dead. This is a spoof of the effect's popularity (and overuse) on shows like Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test.
  • Stephen Colbert's portrait on The Colbert Report slowly became one of these, as every season he had a new portrait painted... where he posed in front of the previous portrait. That said, what he's holding, generally his latest book, is different. In the final episode, the portrait is completely empty.
  • In an episode of Mad Men, Sally and Glen (kids) have a Seinfeldian Conversation where she points out this is the case with the Land o' Lakes butter label, and says it scares her.
  • In one episode of the live show MTV's Most Wanted in the mid-1990s, the camera followed presenter Ray Cokes through the lobby of the MTV Europe studios, where there was a video wall showing the current program on MTV Europe. Pointing the camera straight at it, this produced a Droste image of that video wall, which was then enhanced by the cameraman (probably Rob the Cameraman) rolling the camera left and right, the image following this with a slight delay for each iteration — giving the impression of a kind of moving tunnel.
  • Modern Family does this to go from the Cold Open to the opening credits.
  • The standard closing card used by CBS for its filmed shows from 1952 to 1968 (such as The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason and many others) features its trademark eye logo inside a larger eye logo. As the camera zooms in, the pupil of the smaller eye opens like a camera shutter to reveal the words "CBS TELEVISION NETWORK".
  • An unintentional example happens every now and then on Pardon the Interruption when the hosts ask Tony Reali whether they made any mistakes. The monitor at Reali's desk shows the camera feed, and that screen has a smaller version of the camera feed, and so on and so on.
  • The classic Doctor Who title sequences were created using this effect. The producers made the original (Hartnell to early Pertwee) sequences by pointing a camera at its own monitor and then passing objects across the lens to create the weird "howl-around" feedback effects.
    • The NuWho Series 8 of Doctor Who (not to be confused with the 1971 Season 8) returns the use of the Droste Effect to the title sequence by having the TARDIS fly out of and into a spiral Droste clockface.
    • In the episode "Sleep No More", when the Doctor is demonstrating that the villain is pulling images out of Clara's eyes, he projects the image into its own field of view, producing this effect.
  • Abby from NCIS gets to enjoy one courtesy of her spy glasses and a monitor showing her the video feed. "Whoa...trippy..."
  • Tyler Perry, announcing for an episode of Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris, does such a good job that he writes a book during the commercial break about announcing. He holds up the book, with cover art featuring Perry holding the book, with cover art featuring Perry...
  • On the children's educational program Odd Squad, the all-kid secret organization's badge logo is a jackalope holding an Odd Squad badge in its paws, creating this trope.
    • An animation featuring this logo subverts this upon zooming into it until the badge no longer has a jackalope, but rather, a ghost holding a badge with a question mark. The image zooms back out to show the initial jackalope looking rather shocked.
  • In The Flash (2014) episode "The New Rogues", Barry weaponizes this to defeat Sam Scudder/Mirror Master. Sam has the power to use mirrors as portals, but when Barry arranges several mirrors to create this effect, when Sam tries to escape through one, he just ends up back where he started.
  • Fargo: Season Two: The "infinite mirrors reflecting off each other" type happens as the Undertaker and his flunkies are taking an elevator to their death at the hands of Mike Milligan.
  • Sense8: In season two Lito delivers a speech at the São Paulo Pride Parade while standing in front of a massive screen showing a live feed of him creating a multi-layered version of this effect.
  • Red Dwarf: In the Red Dwarf: Back to Earth special (where the main characters break out of the show and into the real world), the in-universe promotional material had Lister in one of these pointing to himself. Lister himself ridicules it and poses in front of the image himself with a mockingly flanderized expression.


  • The last scene of The Smashing Pumpkins' "Ava Adore" video has them walking into a theater playing the music video itself, resulting in this effect.
  • The New Pornographers use TV monitors to create this effect in their video for "Letter From An Occupant."
  • The cover of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma uses a variation: a photo of the band with a smaller photo on the wall containing a smaller photo containing a smaller photo. However, each successive photo shows the various band members occupying each other's places.
  • The album cover for Best of Friends - The Smurfs.
  • Used on the cover for Big Country's 2001 covers album Undercover
  • The album cover for Amber Gambler by Gorky's Zygotic Mynci.
  • The album cover for Swing to the Right by Utopia.
  • The album cover for The Power of Sex by E-Rotic.
  • The video for The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army.
  • The video feedback method referenced below is one of the special effects used in the music video for Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
  • The music video for "I'm Gonna Always Love You" (Baby Piggy's song from The Muppets Take Manhattan) has a number of moments where a scene revealed to be on a TV the Muppet Babies are watching. Inevitably, this leads to a moment when the scene of them watching TV does this, and they turn to the camera trying to figure out what's going on.
  • The original cover art for Brian Eno's and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was created by pasting small cutouts of humanoid figures onto a TV screen, displaying a live feed from a video camera on said screen, then pointing the camera at that same screen. The recursion got distorted enough that the resulting picture isn't immediately obvious as a droste image.
  • Electronic indie rock band from Portland, called Starfucker (also stylized as STRFKR for obvious reasons), released a mash-up mixtape titled STARFUCKER: MIXTAPE #1, whose cover reflects a Gucci Mane image on an infinite loop.
  • Irish indie rock band The Academic did a version of this for their song "Bear Claws"; using a projector and Facebook's live video delay, they used Droste-image video loops to keep adding in sound bit by bit. You can only see about 5 to 6 images clearly during the later loops, but the video delay means the new sounds add on each other until, by the final loop, it sounds almost exactly like the album version.

  • The scene in the backglass of Capcom's Breakshot pinball machine has a Breakshot pinball machine in the background.
  • Pinball Magic has a Pinball Magic machine shown in the backglass, complete with another pinball machine on its backglass.

    Print Media 
  • An issue of Dynamite magazine had a Droste cover featuring Jimmie Walker.
  • The Christmas 2008 cover of the Radio Times shows Wallace & Gromit reading that very issue of the Radio Times.
  • #400 of Doctor Who Magazine shows David Tennant reading that issue of DWM (a reference to an image in #1 of Doctor Who Weekly which showed Tom Baker reading the magazine - but which was not itself a Droste image since Tom's copy wasn't on that page). This was reprised in a photoshoot for #500 which had Peter Capaldi reprising all the Milestone Celebration covers.
  • The cover for MAD issue #101 features mascot Alfred E. Neuman reading a copy of that exact issue.
  • Science mags are naturally a fan of this trope. An example from a less expected area - chemistry.
  • The New Scientist cover for 17 August 2019, illustrating an article called "The Perfection Trap", shows an overhead view of a meticulously organised desk, including that copy of New Scientist, perfectly centred in the in-tray.
  • Issue 100 (July 2008) of the UK's Official PlayStation 2 Magazine featured Sonic the Hedgehog on the cover sporting an irritated look towards the reader while holding said issue of the magazine.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Dean Ambrose finds a wired, fully turned-on flat-screen monitor under the ring at Tables, Ladders, and Chairs 2014. Before he uses it as a weapon, he stares at it, grinning like a maniac, while a cameraman looks over his shoulder at Dean and the monitor, intentionally invoking this kind of image. But then the scene cuts to the array of giant ladders towards the stage, giving him an insidious idea. He'd use that monitor later, but it was gimmicked to explode when the cord was pulled on too hard, eventually costing him the match.

  • Every year, ESPN The Magazine has an issue called "Revenge of the Jocks" where a famous athlete takes over as editor for that issue. The front cover features the athlete in question tearing up last year's magazine, which features last year's cover athlete tearing up the previous year's magazine, etc. etc.
  • On his 1993 baseball card from Upper Deck, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mike Perez is depicted autographing his 1993 baseball card from Upper Deck.

    Tabletop Games 

  • The poster and cover for the script of A Strange Loop shows a black man whose body consists of theater curtains looking down, parting the curtains, and revealing inside the exact same image, of himself, parting the curtains and revealing the image again and again to infinity. It's appropriate, as the story is about a playwright struggling to write a play called A Strange Loop.

    Video Games 
  • 99Vidas have a level with a TV screen in the background... displaying the stage you're in, with you onscreen. And inside that TV is another TV, also showing the stage. And inside that one, is another, and another, and another...
  • Digimon Rumble Arena (a Fighting Game spinoff from Digimon) featured one arena with a copy of the screen displayed as a colored hologram near the top of the arena, and the Droste effect varies in depth according to the camera's current position.
  • The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark: In the dining room of Castle Dooley is a painting of the dining room of Castle Dooley, complete with a smaller version of the same painting (itself containing a smaller version of the same painting, and so on).
  • In Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades for the DS, the unique guitar for the bonus songs is a DS with strings. Its bottom screen shows a miniature version of the gameplay HUD, which shows another copy of that DS, whose bottom screen shows the HUD, and so on.
  • Although several Mario Kart games have tracks with monitors displaying live race footage as it happens, the size and placement of these monitors around the track generally prevent a Droste effect from developing.
  • In Portal, place two portals on opposite walls and look through the resulting "tunnel". It may be the first game to where it is also possible to walk (or fall) through them. note 
  • The first-person "tunnel" effect in the final levels of Super Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi were rendered using an analogous method, in which as one tile increased in size, another, smaller (and usually identical) tile appeared inside it, and so on. See it here.
  • Dwarf Fortress art includes images of "historical events", which includes artifacts, and since the object is created before art is added to it, the content maker sometimes depicts an artifact on itself. Moreover, a glitch/repeatable exploit adding more art and law of large numbers make it happen. The first reported was the statue aptly named "Planepacked", among "an ungodly amount of items built into it" including 73 images of itself. Read here the description of its full glory, as well as of this and another similar exploit.
  • The mirror leading to Satan's altar in Tecmo's Deception, although its range is too small to show much more than itself and the surrounding wall.
  • There's a manuscript page like this in Alan Wake: "I lifted the page in front of my eyes and read it. In it, I lifted the page in front of my eyes and read it. In it..."
    • And, by extension, the entire premise is this. Alan Wake is being forced by a dark supernatural power to write the very same into existence, as the very same dark power can only materialize horrors that creative human minds have written. This way, Alan Wake basically trapped himself and everyone around him in his own work... retroactively.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, this can happen in the Glitz Pit when the huge monitor set-up at the back of the arena shows a front view of the arena, wherein the huge monitor set-up at the back of the arena shows a front view of the arena, wherein...
  • One area of the Alpha Labs in Doom³ has a security monitor. The player can cycle through a number of cameras, including a camera looking at the screen, so the Marine sees himself seeing himself, etc.
  • The menu page of The Stanley Parable depicts the titular Player Character's office desk with the computer showing the menu itself. It goes so far as to have your cursor's movements reflected in each of the images.
  • Tekken:
    • Tekken 1's Marine Stadium has a Jumbotron displaying the fight.
    • In Tekken 2, the "Mirror Darkness" stage, where players fight Devil/Angel, has the on-screen action recursively mirrored in the background.
  • In Zen Pinball, the Deadpool table has a Deadpool pinball machine on its left apron, which in turn has an even smaller Deadpool table on its left apron, and so forth.
  • The box art for the Konami's Best edition of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow has a smaller, slightly angled box art of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow.
  • Played for laughs in SPY Fox in Dry Cereral, with a guy who has an Animated Tattoo on his chest that randomly changes each time you click on him. One of the tattoos is of himself showing off his tattoo of himself showing off his tattoo ad infinitum.
  • In the Super Smash Bros. series, the jumbotron in the Pokémon Stadium stages works this way.
  • Done in a Breaking the Fourth Wall manner in Postal 2: Paradise Lost. The "Church of the VD Clan" is made up of former members of Running With Scissors, who have moved from their former office to the old church, and as such filled it with various computers (among other things). In some cases, you can find a monitor on desk that is running UnrealEd, displaying a preview of a monitor on a desk that is running UnrealEd, displaying a preview of a monitor on a desk that is running UnrealEd, displaying...
  • One of the backgrounds in Welltris shows the game's author (Alexey Pajitnov) standing next to a computer, on which is displayed a game of Welltris with the background image of Alexey Pajitnov standing next to a computer, on which is displayed... (the resolution is too small to make out further details beyond the first three levels though.)
  • In Kingdom Hearts coded, as Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Sora watch the monitor in Mickey's library, at one point, it starts displaying the four of them watching the monitor. The bottom of the monitor is visible from that angle, which is also displaying them watching the monitor. Unlike most instances of this trope, however, the angle is from the side.
  • In the Switch version of Miitopia, one of the many paintings that can be seen in during the Museum outings is image of the museum room, complete with the representation of itself, etc.
  • The box art for Déjà Vu: The NES cover has Ace holding a photo of Ace, holding a photo of Ace, holding a photo...
  • In Untitled Goose Game, the model village includes a model version of the model village.
  • In Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers, one of the games in the software store's bargain bin, "Sim Sim", is described as a Recursive Reality Simulation Game and has an infinity cover.

    Web Animation 
  • Web animator Cyriak employs this trope with a number of his animations, especially his earlier .gifs, alongside Body Horror, Soundtrack Dissonance, and plenty of other things.
  • Lisa the hedgehog from Natural Habitat Shorts always wears a T-shirt depicting herself. Naturally, this includes a depiction of the T-shirt itself, which shows a smaller Lisa wearing a smaller T-shirt. A Halloween episode takes things even further, with Lisa wearing a costume of herself wearing the usual T-shirt.


    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Echo Chamber. Tom attempts to explain the Show Within a Show trope by comparing it to the Hasselhoff Recursion.
    Tom: Okay, so, you guys have seen the internet video where it's David Hasselhoff, and they zoom in on his crotch and there's another David Hasselhoff and they zoom in on his crotch...
  • A webcast goes horribly, horribly wrong.
  • Vinesauce: Joel actually managed to do this by accident.
  • The Iguana Song shows the titular Iguana holding a disc of him holding a disc of him...
  • Neil Cicierega's video "Mouth" starts off by infinitely zooming in on nested images of Shrek. Then he starts manipulating the images, and everything turns into a bad acid trip...
  • In the fourth wall-breaking Scootertrix the Abridged: The Movie, one scene involves Pinkie Pie winding up on a YouTube page, where that very scene from Scootertrix the Abridged: The Movie is currently playing, creating an infinite recursion effect until the screen gets broken.
  • A hitman gets a picture of himself, indicating he's the target and then frames it so it forms this. It is not explained how or why his employers got this picture. He takes the job, but it's hard as he is "always one step ahead of me". [1]
  • This animatic of "Haus of Holbein" from Six has a brief one of these starting at the 0:28 mark when the queens list countries where Hans Holbein painted girls. It starts off with Anne Boleyn in front of one framed painting as she says "From Spain", which is then framed as Jane Seymour says "to France", and the effect is taken a step further on Anne of Cleaves' "and Germany" line.
  • There is a pub in England with a loose brick in the wall, and removing it will reveal a miniature of the very room the wall is in, complete with a tiny man removing that same brick and looking inside. Stuart Ashen found it and made this.

    Western Animation 
  • The Venture Brothers: #21 and Dean spy on the Murderous Moppets watching television. The TV gets changed to a security camera behind Dean and #21, revealing them and creating a loop between the camera and TV screen.
  • The Darkwing Duck episode "A Brush With Oblivion" had one of these as Honker Muddlefoot's art project.
  • Dilbert has the Pointy-Haired Boss showing a slideshow of his trip to Elbonia. The final slide is of himself showing the final slide, which loops endlessly.
  • The opening cartoon of Futurama's season 4/original series finale involved the intro itself playing in an infinite loop, creating a droste image.
  • In the Justice League episode "Wildcards", one shot has the Joker showing his successful takeover of TV channels by appearing at a TV screen, which shows him on television in the same shot, and so on.
  • An old Rankin/Bass cartoon called Tomfoolery had a gag involving an animated man holding a Droste image of himself that zoomed in for several seconds. After a while, the narrator quipped, "This could go on all day!"
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • One episode had Doofenshmirtz explaining how he was able to capture Perry the Platypus again through a series of pictures on canvas that ends up reaching his own explanation thereof. The final picture is of himself pointing to a picture of himself that goes on for several times (but not getting smaller) until the canvas runs out of room.
    • In "Meapless in Seattle", Ferb unearths an old urn with a picture of an ancient Greek version of himself holding an urn with a picture of an ancient Greek version of himself holding an urn... and so on.
  • "Magazine Holder's Magazine" from The Simpsons.
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "Now You Smurf 'Em, Now You Don't", Vanity presents Greedy with a painting of himself in the exact same pose holding a painting of himself.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "No Free Rides", inside of Mrs. Puff's house there is a picture on her wall that shows the exact same shot of Mrs. Puff standing by the door, picture and all. In "Bumper to Bumper", there is another painting of her sitting on her couch.
  • In the epsiode "Raid the Cave" in Star vs. the Forces of Evil features this when Star is attempting to use her spying spell and eventually spies on Marco through the portal, who in turn is spying on Star and the portal right back.
  • One ad spot for Teen Titans (2003) consisted of this.
    Starfire: What are you watching?
    Robin: Teen Titans.
    [zooms in on the TV screen]
    Starfire: What are you watching?
    Robin: Teen Titans.
    [zooms in; repeat a couple more times]
  • In an episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, when Moltar is attempting to fix the monitor, it begins showing Space Ghost looking at it as it's showing him.
    Space Ghost: Hey look! It's me watching me watching me watching me!
  • In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Box", Wander peeks inside the titular box and sees... himself peeking inside the box. The camera then zooms through the infinite progression of boxes and into a Dream Sequence.
  • Used during Xergiok's musical sequence in the Adventure Time episode "The Great Birdman".
  • During The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Phone" Darwin looks at an animation on the eponymous phone of himself coming out of an envelope then opening his mouth to reveal another envelope with another Darwin.
  • Donald in Mathmagic Land ends with an infinite progression of pentagrams, which then transform into an endless hallway of doors, representing the discoveries made through mathematics.
    "No pencil is sharp enough to draw as fine as you can think, and no paper large enough to hold your imagination. In fact, it is only in the mind that we can conceive infinity."
  • In the I Am Weasel episode "I Are Legend", Weasel realizes that people are watching him on TV, and at one point, we see him standing next to a TV with an image of the scene on the screen, leading to this trope.
  • Kaeloo: In "Let's Play Paranormal Stuff", Kaeloo, Stumpy and Mr. Cat, standing right in front of Quack Quack, open a Cool Gate to the inside of Quack Quack's head. As a result of them standing in front of Quack Quack, this trope occurs with the door.
  • Green Eggs and Ham (2019): One of the many cars on the eponymous locomotive in "Train" is the "Model Train Car" which contains a down-scaled model of the train itself. When Guy-Am-I peeks into one of the model train's car, he ends up seeing a miniature version of himself looking at the same exact model train inside it, which leaves him visibly disturbed. The model train car ends up becoming a Chekhov's Gun in the next episode when Guy uses the same model train to determine where the BADGUYS are on the train relative to himself.
  • In an episode of WordGirl, a Droste image of Warden Charmers can be seen at the back of his 140-year-old Limburger cheese exhibit.

    Real Life 
  • Stand two mirrors opposite each other. Observe.
  • "Video feedback" can be triggered by pointing a video camera, or a computer webcam, at any screen which is displaying the camera's own live footage. (Example)
    • An episode of MythBusters actually had Adam wearing an Infini Tee of himself, possibly as a Call-Back to this image.
    • Audio feedback works on the same principle— a microphone recursively amplifying the sound from a speaker— but you get that horrible screeching noise. A better match for the concept of the trope can be had through a delay or echo effect, which replays the same sound with decreasing volume.
      • A sound on sound tape recorder worked even better: the sound goes back and forth between the two channels, fairly accurately at first but with distortion increasing each time.
  • An early transatlantic satellite broadcast included a monitor on the wall behind the presenter which showed the return signal from the satellite. Satellite delay meant that the image on the screen took about half a second to cut from a test pattern to the image of the presenter with a test pattern on the screen behind him, and so on.
  • In mathematics, the concept of self-similarity.
  • The concept of recursive functions in programming is pretty much that. If you don't put a stopping condition, it will repeat itself until it runs out of memory. On an unrelated note, modern operating systems guard against the aforementioned programming oversight / malicious code. Before infinite recursion can happen, the program will be terminated by "overflowing out of stack", which is basically exhausting the (fairly small) space to note the connections between the recursing function(s). As for forkbombs, it's one of those things that modern UNIX-based OS actively try to prevent. You can't make too many forks at too short an interval, and in some cases there's a maximum number of forks you can do.
  • During the stage show of Depeche Mode's 2006 "Touring the Angel" tour, which featured a large LED video wall behind the stage, the screen would often feature a medium-zoom view of the performers with the wall directly behind them. A (perhaps unintentional) half-second delay loop resulted in a "stepping" effect, which was enhanced by blinking lights and camera flashes. See here for an example.
  • In heraldry this is called "mise en abyme" (from French "placed into abyss"). It was fairly common in medieval Europe. More recent examples include:
  • Virtual Machines. You can run a "virtualized" operating system inside that very same operating system, recursively ad infinitum in theory, hardware resources notwithstanding.note  This is getting more and more common these days to prevent the headache of having to craft policies for many, many users that share single administrative space. Having an OS emulating the very same OS also cuts down the hassle of having to provide different updates.
  • Some remote desktop clients like LogMeIn allow the user to "remotely access" their own computer, which has predictable results. Odd behavior will be present, such as logging out the user when the window is closed, or the mouse not being able to access the window.
  • Until a recent update, AirServer (which allows AirPlay mirroring to a Mac) allowed a Mac to mirror to itself. If a Droste image wasn't the result, then garbled colors and glitchy text would take its place.
  • Open up OBS, Xsplit, or anything like that and add the desktop as a source. If the preview is on the desktop, you'll get a Droste image.
    • Similarly, VLC has a feature that displays the contents of the desktop. If the VLC player is still on the desktop, this causes a Droste Image.
  • The village of Godshill on the Ise of Wight contains a beautiful model village; specifically a scale model of Godshill itself. It is so accurate and detailed that it contains a perfect scale model of the model village in Godshill. The model of the model is so accurate and detailed that it contains a perfect scale model of the model of the model village in Godshill...
  • In computing, a quine is a program that produces a copy of its own source code and nothing more.
    • An extension of that is a quine-relay which, for example, is a Java program producing C++ code producing the original Java source code which would be a quine-relay of length 2. There's even one with length 100.
  • Similarly to the Quine example above, it is possible to create a ZIP file that contains itself. There's also which contains itself... and the Droste image.
  • ICEE cups have this. The polar bear mascot is seen holding a cup with the same artwork as the actual cup. And that cup has the same artwork, and so on, and so on.
  • Some Coca Cola fridges with glass doors have stickers on the top corner of a Coca Cola fridge, with a sticker of a Coca Cola fridge, ad infinitum.

Alternative Title(s): Droste Effect, Recursive Image, Infinity Cover



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Main / DrosteImage

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