Although “Laughing Cow” cheese is well-known for its “Droste effect” label, less well-known is the fact that early French cheese packaging in general is another product category where packages that include “Droste effect” pictures of themselves seem to be fairly widespread.
Most often these illustrations are of women holding the self-replicating package, but there are also packages that feature a gorilla or a gendarme holding the product—the product on which they, themselves, appear.
All of the photos above (and the animated gif to the right) come from François Bouigue’s website, “Le Tyrosémiophile.” (A “tyrosémiophile” is a collector of cheese labels.)
In French, the term for “Droste effect” is “mise en abyme” (or “mise en abîme”) which is means “placed into abyss.” Google, however will also translate the phase as “curveball.”
Not all of the labels on Monsieur Bouigue’s website are placed-into-the-abyss “curveballs” — but many more than I’ve included here.
Clearly the “Droste effect” has long been a traditional feature of early illustrated packaging. Detailed illustrations of the product “in use” naturally tended to include depictions of the package label.