Fukuda’s Three Dimensional Belvedere: A Peek Behind Escher’s Curtain

M. C. Escher Belvedere 1958

While Shigeo Fukuda is best known for his posters, he infused his fascination with illusion in a variety of mediums from silkscreen to metalwork to sculpture. Fukuda’s use and understanding of shadows and negative space were key in translating his visual illusions into the third dimension. As in Belvedere, Fukuda often referenced the work of M.C. Escher, another illusionist with a love of mind-bending impossible designs. Though little information about Fukuda’s Three Dimensional Belvedere is available, it is a fascinating 3D reimagination and invitation behind the scenes of Escher’s work that is both accessible and just out of reach for the viewer. 

Fukuda’s 1982 Belvedere sculpture is based on the 1958 M.C. Esher lithograph of the same name. At first glance, Escher’s Belevedere is an immediate success as an illusion, convincing the viewer that the belvedere building is simply ornate. The issue appears when the viewer begins to analyze the columns which appear to criss-cross and trick the eye. The floors also puzzle the viewer as they appear to be parallel but differ in their orientations. As with most illusions, the longer the eye rests on Belvedere, the more confusing Escher’s “impossible building” becomes. 

Shigeo Fukuda alongside Three Dimensional Belvedere 1982

Fukuda solved the riddle of how to translate this 2D impossible building into a new medium. In Fukuda’s Belvedere, he forgoes Esher’s playful depictions of characters and pares down the design to its structural elements only, leaving them to speak for themselves. In this act, he shows the appreciation for simplicity that comes up frequently in his pieces. In Fukuda’s rendition, the Belvedere illusion is maintained from one angle and revealed from another, allowing a peek behind the curtain. By choosing to cut the columns in half rather than twisting and stretching them to meet their counterparts on the other side of the building, Fukuda can avoid adding any structural elements that are uncommon for building and keep the piece simple. Fukuda’s Belvedere maintains the impact and illusion of Escher’s version while enhancing the piece. Fukuda’s choices build on and enhance the idea set forth by Escher while infusing Belvedere with his personal flair.


Kunst Museum Den Haag. (2020, May 30). Belvedere. Escher In Het Paleis. https://www.escherinhetpaleis.nl/escher-today/belvedere/?lang=en 

Penney, M. (2017, March 23). Designer Focus: Shigeo Fukuda. Notes On Design Features. https://www.sessions.edu/notes-on-design/designer-focus-shigeo-fukuda/  


Images in order of appearance:

Seckel, A. (2006). Optical Illusions: The Science of Perception (p. 254). Firefly Books. 

Kunst Museum Den Haag. (2020, May 30). Belvedere. Escher In Het Paleis. https://www.escherinhetpaleis.nl/escher-today/belvedere/?lang=en 

Ernst, B. (n.d.). The Eye Beguiled: Models. Impossible World. https://im-possible.info/english/articles/the-eye-beguiled/7-models.html