Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | April 22, 2008

Escheresque art long before Escher

Lacquer Box

M.C. Escher was not the first who invented patterns of interlocked fish and birds.

The British Museum’ description of this object:

Length: 30.500 cm, Width: 24.300 cm, Height: 6.200 cm
Gift of Dr Bernhard Landan
Asia JA 1946.10-12.1.a-c

Lacquer document box, From Japan, Edo period, 19th century AD

The interlocking design of black crows and white egrets is very unusual, and has no real precedent in Japanese art.

However, it does have something in common with the painting of the Rimpa school, and can be placed in the tradition of depicting flocks of birds on Japanese screens, common from the seventeenth century onwards.

The crows’ eyes, inlaid with gold lacquer and mother-of pearl, and the conspicuous pinkish bills of the egrets both help us to pick out the birds from the puzzling design.

L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)



  1. I thought Escher was the first to employ conformal symmetry. This painting does not disprove that, does it?

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