A Magic Square in Barcelona

For those of you who are interested in magic squares, here’s a fun fact: There is a magic square on the front of the world-famous and awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, Spain, which was envisioned by Antoni Gaudi. I happened to spot it on a recent trip to this magnificent city.


The numbers add up to 33 in the usual ways, which is supposedly the age at which Jesus Christ was crucified.

Second fun fact: If you look closely, you will realize that the creator had to cheat a little bit to make the magic square work. The numbers 12 and 16 are missing, and instead, the 10 and the 14 make a double appearance!


New Addition to My Collection


Last year I was fortunate to snatch this lovely art work from fellow magician and painter Jay Fortune. Besides the delicate black ink lines I particularly like the fact that this Dai Vernon rendition was drawn on an original page from an old Genii magazine!

Check out Jay’s art work here – he also does pop art and “pet paw-traits”!


Historisch-Kunstvolles für Taschenspieler

ABC Witt

Rechtzeitig zu Weihnachten hat Wittus Witt seine neueste, ambitionierte Publikation auf den Markt gebracht: Das A-B-C der Taschenspieler-Kunst. Als Schriftenreihe für Liebhaber geplant, hat sich schon die Erstausgabe zu einem richtigen Buch ausgewachsen: 156 Seiten Umfang, fest gebunden, edel gedruckt, mit Schutzumschlag und diversen Beilagen (Poster-Reprint und Zauberbriefmarken) versehen. Es sollen künftig zwei Ausgaben pro Jahr erscheinen.

Hier gibt es einen flotten Video-Preview:

Da ich selbst mit einem Beitrag vertreten sein darf, fällt mein Urteil natürlich nicht ganz neutral aus, doch unabhängig davon ist dieses Werk aus meiner Sicht ein sprichwörtliches “Muss” zum Blättern, Schmökern und Genießen für jeden Zaubersammler und -historiker!


Another Houdini Stamp!

Collectors, rejoice!

I’m happy and a bit proud to report that I have just unearthed another Houdini postage stamp. I am not aware of any magic collectors’ sources that have mentioned this stamp so far, but of course I may be wrong.

TC Houdini Stamp

The stamp was issued in Mozambique, Africa, in 2010 (the year of his passing), as part of a series of eight stamps which depict some Tony Curtis movies. The top left stamp of the set features the movie “Houdini” from 1953, with Tony Curtis in the leading role and Janet Leigh as Bess, his partner and assistant (and back then his wife in real life).

And now go and collect it!


Exploring Bosch’s “Juggler” further

I’m certainly neither an art historian in general nor an expert on Bosch‘s painting “The Juggler”; yet, the fabulous Bosch Project I mentioned here recently and which you can find online here, has triggered some fun detective work on my side of the screen.


When we look at the famous painting, we could argue that the cutpurse on the left is simply taking random advantage of the juggler’s momentary action on the right. However, it could also be the case that the two main characters are partners in crime: The juggler provides the misdirection while the thief cuts up jackpots.

Some evidence for the latter version:

  1. These two eerie fellows stand juxtaposed to each other, thus framing the painting on the left and on the right, which may indicate a relation.
  2. They seem to be of very similar height (excluding the juggler’s top hat).
  3. By playing around with enlarged snippets of the painting, twisting and mirroring them, I came to realize that both men’s noses and faces in profile are very similar to each other, which could indicate that they are, in fact, brothers, both in life and in crime!

Have a look below: The size, crooked shape and nostrils of both noses are very similar. Also, both noses and half faces can be interchanged without much ado or any image manipulation:

Bosch Noses and Faces

More discoveries to come!


Neue Zaubermarken aus Deutschland

Sammler magischer Briefmarkenmotive können sich über zwei Neuzugänge in der Rubrik “Optische Illusionen” freuen: Die Deutsche Post hat vor wenigen Wochen unter dem Titel “Optische Täuschung” die beiden Motive “Gebogene Linien?” (60 Cent) und “Perspektivwechsel” (80 Cent) herausgegeben:

Optische Täuschung Deutschland 2019 Marke 60c_snipOptische Täuschung Deutschland 2019 Marke 80c_snip

Mehr zum Thema magische Marken gibt es hier.


Cups & Balls: A Revelation from 1634


Looking for something else on the World Wide Wonderweb, I came about this interesting image of Hocus Pocus Junior and his famous revelatory book, The Anatomy of Legerdemain, or, The Art of Jugling, first published in 1634. Across the title page, there is a depiction of the artist in action and with his props (see above).

Now have a closer look at the hands and at the cups on the table:


It seems that this image is much more than just an arbitrary illustration for any magic book. First, I think, it’s a surprisingly accurate “freeze shot” of the very moment before the magic is going to happen: The right hand with the wand will tap the closed left hand, that hand will open and display – nothing! The ball that was supposed to be in the fist will be seen to have disappeared.

Where to? Well, the image also tells us this “clearly”: By displaying the top cup as if it were transparent (they didn’t use drinking glasses for magic back then), we can see where the ball is actually hidden and where it may reappear any moment now!

Could this be the first very accurate magic illustration and how-to instruction on a book’s cover (or frontispiece), I wonder?


A War Fought with Playing Cards

Holger Steigerwald has pointed fellow magic historians towards an interesting piece of academic research on 17th century English playing cards. It was written and published as a diploma thesis (in German) by Florian Völkerer at the University of Vienna in 2018. Its title can be translated as “Playing with Memories. On the Exploitation of the Spanish Armada on 17th Century English Playing Cards.” It is available for download in PDF format here.

Völkerer Playing Card Spanish Armada

Here’s the English abstract from the author:

The thesis deals with a set of english playing cards from 1679 depicting the events of the Spanish Armada. After a number of supplementary investigations it attempts to identify the narrative conveyed by the cards, as well as to address the probable reasons why this narrative was constructed in a specific manner. Main results are that the production and distribution of the cards appears to be closely linked to the english exclusion crisis, during which the cards where part of the anglican propaganda-effort against the catholic James II. The narrative therefore serves as an historical argument in the political debate and is consequently constructed in a distinctly anti-catholic manner. While staying close to the facts for most of the time, it differs from our current knowledge about the Spanish Armada mainly in overemphasizing the impact of the actual fighting (and therefore of the english fleet) on the eventual outcome of the events. Furthermore, the role of individual actors is put into focus, to the extent that the whole campaign appears almost as a personal squabble between Elizabeth I. and the pope. Thereby the historical events are used as an allegorical depiction of the struggle of anglican England against a counter reformatory catholicism led and controlled by the pope, while the depiction of Elizabeth I. serves as a stark contrast to James II. The playing cards investigated in this thesis therefore show exemplary how historical narratives can be shaped and used to construct arguments in contemporary political debates.

Layers of Layers of Bosch

Since listening to Dr. Steffen Taut‘s fascinating talk on recent research findings about Jheronimus Bosch‘s (?) famous painting, The Juggler, at the latest EMHC, I have spent quite a bit of time on the wonderful website of the Bosch Project, and I’d urge you to check it out, too!

It takes a moment to load the huge amount of data, but then they will guide you inch by inch into and through the surreal world of Bosch. These data do not only give you the Bosch paintings in amazing detail and scan quality; in the interactive section, they also feature the underdrawings made visible through infrared and X-rays, so you can compare drafts and finalizations, various styles, etc.


Here are some examples what the screen image looks like when you play around with the various visible layers of the painting:









Now have a look at some of the fine details. I actually doubt that you could see and identify them so well when standing before the original painting in the museum of Saint-Germain-en-Laye!

By the way, I have always marveled at the modern red hat of the woman spectator on the left. Doesn’t it look like a 20th century creation?!


Here’s the detail of the cut-purse in action. Note how well you can see the shining tip of the blade.


More details, discoveries and thoughts on this painting to come!


More on Magic and Art

In recent weeks, I have expanded the MAGIC ART section on this site a bit. New entries feature the wonderful and diverse talents of artists–many of them also magicians–like Jonathan Allen, Tango Gao, Tommervik, Jay Fortune, Asi Wind, Antonio Cabral, and Vanni Pulé.

Take a look!