The other day, my eager apprentice, Heinrich the Magic Hare, mused about the role of holes in magic — black holes, holes in coins, wandering holes on cards, and a lots of other holes (including magic’s biggest a$$holes). He concluded that holes have opened a whole new dimension in magic. I couldn’t disagree.
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?
Potter & Potter will be auctioning off the first part of the massive magic apparatus collection of Rüdiger Deutsch on October 26. A catalog is available online now. What a delight! Check here for more details.
The other day, I got myself this lovely old set of silvery cups at a fleamarket. I doubt that they were ever used for magic trickery, but as you can see with the patina, they stack nicely and leave just enough room in between for small crocheted balls or these tiny (real) apples which I picked up on the way!
The other day, my eager apprentice, Heinrich the Magic Hare, studied the guarantee cards of various manufacturers and asked me whether I knew of any majishun or card player who, annoyed by rough edges or asymmetrical cuts, had ever send in a card or a deck for a replacement. I couldn’t think of anybody.
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.
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.
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!
Hi, Hans! About six weeks into your new show at the Excalibur in Las Vegas, how has it been going so far? Has the show already been worked in well?
Hans Klok: We are definitely proud of the show we are performing here. We took enough time to produce it already in Europe, and the results are extremely rewarding. It is running smoothly and the reviews are fantastic. It was my dream for many years to come back here to Las Vegas and we are settling down very well.
On Instagram you have already posted a number of photos with magic and other celebrities… So how have you been received by the magic community on your return to Vegas?
I have always felt very welcome by the magic community here in Vegas, especially by Siegfried & Roy, who have always been my great inspiration. They have been to our show recently and were very enthusiastic and excited for me, as was my dear friend Criss Angel when he was here. Lance Burton has also been a good friend of mine for many years and it was fabulous for us to catch up again.
Who is your main audience, and how are the fill rates of the showroom doing?
We are having great response from audiences from all over the world. Las Vegas is obviously a huge tourist magnet for all nationalities. We are filling the room nicely with a multitude of international visitors, but on saying that, our main audience still seems to be Americans, people from Germany and of course the Dutch.
You deliver about 50 illusions in 70 minutes, which is an amazing feat. So what‘s your smallest trick in the show, and what‘s your biggest illusion?
The smallest trick is the Floating Light Bulb, which has a gigantic effect on the audience. I am proud to have the permission from the Blackstone Family to be the only illusionist today who is allowed to perform this miracle world-wide.
I guess the largest illusion is the Eclipse, in which I produce three lovely assistants from nowhere. And I really love the Suspended Animation from John Taylor, which is one of the best illusions created in the last 20 years.
At age 50 now, is it getting harder to stay „the fastest magician in the world?“ How do you maintain your fitness level outside of the show?
If you are passionate enough about anything that you do, you can remain at the top of your profession for as long as this passion drives you. When I am performing, I feel ageless. So I guess that being the fastest magician in the world is still going to be my label for a long time. And going to the gym every day and swimming a few laps in my pool every evening helps as well.
You have three sentences for a good pitch. Why should families visit your show, and why should magicians also take notice?
To sum it up in one sentence: Apart from my performance being a tornado of illusions, this show is also a tribute to some of the greatest magicians and illusionists of all time, so the audience get to re-live such great moments through the history of magic, for example the mysterious Floating Light Bulb from Harry Blackstone and not to forget the fabulous Moretti Sword Box.
In a recent portrait of yours in de Volkskrant you said that, on the one hand, everything in Vegas is „fake and plastics,“ on the other hand it feels very much like a special place for you. Why is that?
Hey, that’s Las Vegas. There is no place like this in the world!
Heel erg bedankt for taking the time to answer my questions, und weiterhin alles Gute, Hans!
(Interview: Jan Isenbart)
Watch the TV trailer for the new show here:
Visit Hans Klok’s website and get tickets for his show at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino (starting at 44,95 $) here.
Read more interviews with magic celebrities in English and German on ZZZAUBER here.
The other day, my eager apprentice, Heinrich the Magic Hare, dug into the intricacies of magic with chips. At the end of that session, he surprised me with a no-cover version of Tenyo’s Mystery of the High Hat!