The Fall of the Magician

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From contemporary Belgian Surrealism to an older variety (Dutch/Flemish rather than Belgian per se, but it’s close enough). I’d seen prints of The Fall of the Magician before but not the earlier picture from what turns out to be a two-part set depicting an occult encounter between Saint James and the magician Hermogenes. Both prints were engraved in 1565 by Pieter van der Heyden from drawings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the prints being published by the print-maker with the unforgettable name, Hieronymus Cock.

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Both pictures show an episode from the life of Saint James recounted in The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Varagine, a very popular collection of hagiographies compiled in the 1200s: the magician Hermogenes is hired by the Pharisees to put a stop to the miracle-working of the saint only to be confounded by the treachery of his demons. As usual with Bruegel, the drawings are replete with details that combine wild imagination with careful observation. (The confrontation of the saint and the magus is paralleled in the face-off between a toad and a cat). Seeing Bruegel’s art as engraved lines is a reminder that the comic profusion in his drawings is the start of a tradition that runs through the prints of William Hogarth to the crowded pages of early MAD magazine; the latter connection is reinforced by artist Will Elder who referred to The Fall of the Magician as a precursor of his own crowded splash panels.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bruegel’s sins
Proverbial details
Babel details

Meyer’s Todtengessängen

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The traditional post for Día de los Muertos is a selection of illustrations by Conrad Meyer (1618–1689) for a Dance of Death from 1650. Unlike some earlier examples this book has a specific religious moral, opening with the expulsion from the Garden of Eden and ending with the triumph of Christ over Death. Given that, it’s surprising the degree of struggle in some of the illustrations, whether in the determination of the skeletal intruders to drag away the mortals they meet, or the reluctance and horror displayed by those mortals. Towards the end there are some details worthy of William Hogarth with revellers puking on unfortunate dogs. Browse the rest of the book here or download it here.

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False perspective

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Satire on False Perspective by William Hogarth (1753).

Whoever makes a Design without the knowledge of Perspective will be liable to such absurdities as are shewn in this Frontispiece.

More eye-deceiving art for All Fools’ Day. Everyone knows MC Escher‘s pictures which continually played with the rules of perspective. Hogarth’s satire is less well-known and may even be the first of its kind. I haven’t seen any examples earlier than this.

A few contemporary equivalents follow, all of which can be found at Impossible World, a site devoted to visual disjunction.

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