Area 4. Crossing Worlds

As of 1937, Escher leaves physical tangible reality behind in order to interpret the world by means of the interplay between opposing elements. For the artist it is not about idealising reality but rather about provoking the meeting of different realities that act through reciprocity or exchange. These dual worlds to which Escher frequently turns, end up merging into a contaminated landscape wherein we have difficulty differentiating the boundaries between one and the other. Worlds embedded within other worlds in a continuous infinite succession.

Mirror images feature prominently in most of his works grouped under this theme, particularly noteworthy among which is the use of spherical shapes. For instance, in Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror (1935), the room surrounding the artist is compressed in a distorted manner in the sphere held in his hand. The same occurs in Three Spheres II (1946), in which the landscape of the sphere is extended with the lateral reflections of the two spheres flanking it.

In Drawing Hands (1948), this interpretation of reality, this intersection of worlds, is observed in hands that escape from the surface while one of them draws the other. The reality emerges from the drawing that created it.

A sheet of paper is pinned upon a background with four thumbtacks. A right hand, a pencil, sketches a shirtcuff on the paper. It is only a rough sketch, but a little farther to the right a detailed drawing of a left hand emerges from the sleeve, rises from the plane, and comes to life. In its turn this left hand is sketching the cuff from which the right hand emerges.


Escher’s continuous investigation about playing with perspectives, questioning or changing the relativity of the vanishing points, can be seen in various etchings in this area. The visitor is confused by the changes in dimension, different points of view of the same space and the simultaneous rotation of positions.

Escher’s attraction for strange and impossible spaces, with distorted vanishing points and only possible through ones imagination, probably comes from his initial interest in architecture and in particular in Piranesi’s etchings, the Views (Vedute) that he saw during his visits to Rome in his youth. From the Venetian artist’s Prisons (Carceri), Escher learned the continuous spatial and limitless relation as well as the cyclical perspective without a beginning and an end, leaving to one side the objectivity of the represented space.


  • Hand with reflecting sphere
    Hand with reflecting sphere
  • Balcony
  • Eye
  • Three spheres II
    Three spheres II
  • Drawing hands
    Drawing hands
  • Rippled surface
    Rippled surface
  • Puddle
  • Three worlds
    Three worlds