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Napkin, Fish

This is a Napkin. It was designed by Maurits Cornelis Escher and manufactured by E.F.J. Van Dissel and Son. It is dated ca. 1954 and we acquired it in 1985. Its medium is linen and its technique is 4\1 satin damask. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Maurits Cornelius Escher is best known for his complex illusionary drawings. Escher’s work, which plays with interlocking forms and the seamless use of positive and negative space, is executed here in linen damask, a technique in which two surfaces, one shiny and one matte, are literally the face and reverse of the same satin weave.
Trained as a graphic artist, Escher developed a deep interest in mathematics. He read numerous texts on geometry and crystallography, and developed his own concept, which he referred to as the “regular division of the plane.” This involved filling the entire plane with interlocking figures, which features prominently in Escher’s work after 1937. In everyday use, a napkin may be folded vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, and Escher’s design is fittingly symmetrical around all of those axes. The white-on-white design, entirely dependent on reflectivity to be seen, further enhances the intrigue and complexity of the visual experience.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Geometry for the Table.

It is credited Museum purchase from Alice Baldwin Beer Memorial Fund.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 48.9 × 51.4 cm (19 1/4 × 20 1/4 in.)

Cite this object as

Napkin, Fish; Designed by Maurits Cornelis Escher (Dutch, 1898 - 1972); Manufactured by E.F.J. Van Dissel and Son; Netherlands; linen; H x W: 48.9 × 51.4 cm (19 1/4 × 20 1/4 in.); Museum purchase from Alice Baldwin Beer Memorial Fund; 1985-65-9

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Napkin, Fish |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=31 March 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>