In 1924 M.C. Escher and his wife moved to Rome to live there until 1935. From Rome Escher travelled extensively through Italy making many drawings and watercolours that were used for his prints. Meanwhile, his work was already being exhibited in the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and the United States. In May 1931 Escher visited the village of Atrani near Ravello making several studies in pencil and watercolour to be used in works of later date (B.148 and B.211). This village is also featuring in the present lot.
In 'Metamorphosis I' (B.298) of 1937 Escher for the first time is experimenting in print with his ideas on a regular arrangement of space in which images change from one form into another, being the start of the characteristics for which he was to become so famous. Half a year later 'Day and Night' (B.303) was created. From November 1939 to March 1940 Escher worked on 'Metamorphosis II', a major step in his development to become an internationally renowned artist. Only surpassed by 'Metamorphosis III' of 1967/68, for which it formed a basis, it may be considered as a highlight of his graphic work, in which he combined all his technical skills and artistic and geometrical ideas. The series with regular arrangements of space caused by several metamorphoses starts and ends with the same pattern, thus suggesting a cycle. The cycle, symbol of eternity, was a subject which had fascinated Escher until his death in 1972.
Several of the figures from 'Metamorphosis' reappear in later prints by Escher, showing that he came back to the compositions in the present lot time and time again.
Escher dreamed of finding a publisher for his 'Metamorphosis'; nevertheless he realised that this dream would not come through. In 1940 he printed an edition of eight himself, which took him two weeks time. His task was of great complexity, the seventeen blocks being 5 mm. thick and cut at two sides, for costsaving and reduction of material. A second edition of 6 was printed in 1961 and in later years Escher would reprint on commission, which was common practice to him.