Metamorphosis in Three Stages

Metamorphosis I, Maurits Cornelis Escher, 1937


The concept of this work is to morph one image into a tessellated pattern, then gradually to alter the outlines of that pattern to become an altogether different image. From left to right, the image begins with a depiction of the coastal Italian town of Atrani, Coast of Amalfi.

The outlines of the architecture then morph to a pattern of three-dimensional blocks. These blocks then slowly become a tessellated pattern of cartoon-like figures in oriental attire.


Metamorphosis II, 1940


Like Metamorphosis I, the concept of this piece is to morph one image into a tessellated pattern and then slowly alter that pattern eventually to become a new image.

The process begins left to right with the word metamorphose (the Dutch form of the word metamorphosis) in a black rectangle, followed by several smaller metamorphose rectangles forming a grid pattern. This grid then becomes a black and white checkered pattern, which then becomes tessellations of reptiles, a honeycomb, insects, fish, birds and a pattern of three-dimensional blocks with red tops.

These blocks then become the architecture of the Italian coastal town of Atrani. In this image Atrani is linked by a bridge to a tower in the water, which is actually a rook piece from a chess set. There are other chess pieces in the water and the water becomes a chess board. The chess board leads to a checkered wall, which then returns to the word metamorphose.


Metamorphosis III, 1968


This is Escher’s largest print. It was printed on thirty-three blocks on six combined sheets and mounted on canvas. This print was partly colored by hand.

It begins identically to Metamorphosis II, with the word metamorphose (the Dutch form of the word metamorphosis) forming a grid pattern and then becoming a black-and-white checkered pattern. Then the first set of new imagery begins. The angles of the checkered pattern change to elongated diamond shapes. These then become an image of flowers with bees. This image then returns to the diamond pattern and back into the checkered pattern.

It then resumes with the Metamorphosis II imagery until the bird pattern. The birds then become sailing boats. From the sailing boats the image changes to a second fish pattern. Then from the fish to horses. The horses then become a second bird pattern. The second bird pattern then becomes black-and-white triangles, which then become envelopes with wings. These winged envelopes then return to the black-and-white triangles and then to the original bird pattern. It then resumes with the Metamorphosis II print until its conclusion.