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XXI Well

XXI Well

SKU: 182

At the end of 1930 Escher returned home from southern Italy, defeated and depressed. He could not sell prints and suffered both physically and financially. He doubted his own skills and questioned whether he should continue to work as an artist.


The Dutch art historian G.J. Hoogewerff suggested to Escher that he make an emblemata, a collection of il- lustrated four-line epigrams with Latin mottoes. Hoogewerff, under the pseudonym A.E. Drijfhout, provided many of the epigrams and subsequently praised Escher’s work in an article. The stimulation that Hoogewerff provided helped encourage Escher to press onward with his career.

The highly detailed prints are black and white alone. Escher created the illusion of gray tones by varying the width and proximity of the white lines. Notice the shadow of the Dice or the light emanating from the Candle. Some prints have motifs of future creations. The Butterfly is a mosaic of images. The Frog appears to be a precursor for both Rippled Surface and Three Worlds.


Escher's faithful rendition of the Well of San Gimignano was completed nine years after his first woodcuts of that famous city.  It is a predecessor for his later well print celebrating the Dutch resistance. The latter work has a vantage point from inside the well, whereas this one beckons the viewer to come get a drink. Notice his technique of using parallel vertical lines to create almost the entire image with the exception of the centerpiece. The horizontal lines of the bucket run perpendicular to the background, creating dimensionality and the illusion that the bucket is about to float out of the paper.  


Emblemata contains twenty-seven woodcuts and was printed in an edition of 300.

  • Image Size

    7 1/8 x 5 1/2”

  • Year


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