The Many Deceptions of Master Bosch


I feel happy and honored because my analysis of the relationship between the juggler and the thief in Bosch’s famous painting “The Juggler” has just been published in Marco Pusterla‘s fine journal, Ye Olde Magic Mag! If you are not a subscriber yet, but interested in the field of magic history and collecting, you should check it out; also, if you are just curious to find out why I believe that the juggler and the thief are actually brothers in deceit! The magazine is published quarterly, both in print and digital, and Marco does a great job in researching and compiling scholarly articles, reviews of books and magic auctions, and other interesting bits.

To warm you up for the many layers of trickery in Bosch’s masterpiece, here’s a little game of seek and find:
Can you spot at least 15 mistakes in my manipulated mock version of the original?





Look closely – and don’t take anything for granted! (Just like in real life.) I will post the solution here in a couple of days, so please call again. Have fun!


Click here and scroll down to the end of that page to see the solution! How did you do???


Neues A-B-C der Taschenspieler-Kunst

ABC_Band 4

Wittus Witt hat soeben die vierte Ausgabe seines A-B-C der Taschenspieler-Kunst veröffentlicht. Das Buch enthält auf 156 Seiten die folgenden Beiträge:

Olaf Güthling über die jährlichen “Tenyo plus Eins”-Tricks für Sammler

Jan Isenbart mit einer Detailanalyse des ikonischen Gemäldes “Der Gaukler” von (?) Hieronymus Bosch

Peter Mika über Leben und Karriere des Semiprofis Hans-Georg Boginski alias Mister Bogo

Dr. Steffen Taut über die frühen Zauberkataloge und Listen von Willmann und Horster und ihre historische Einordnung (Teil 1)

Einträge unter dem Buchstaben “C” aus Jochen Zmecks Zauberarchiv

Besonders üppig fallen diesmal die Beilagen zum Buch aus: Neben einem Poster mit einer Übersicht der genannten Zauberkataloge und einer Autogrammkarte von Mister Bogo liegen sowohl eine Postkarte als auch ein auf Holz aufgezogener (!) Druck des Gemäldes “Der Gaukler” bei – eine tolle Idee!

Hier gibt es einen kurzen Video-Einblick in das neue Werk:


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!


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!


Boschs Gaukler auf einer Briefmarke


Erst kürzlich stieß ich in einem älteren Fachbeitrag auf diese magische Marke, die 2001 im afrikanischen Staat Mosambik herausgegeben wurde. Sie zeigt natürlich das berühmte, um 1500 entstandene Gemälde “Der Gaukler” von Hieronymus Bosch – allerdings mit zwei Eigenheiten: Zum einen erscheint das Bild hier gespiegelt, d.h. anders als im Original steht der Vorführer links und das Publikum rechts. Zum anderen ist das Bild auf der Seite des Publikums aus unerfindlichen Gründen beschnitten. So wird der Betrachter der Marke um den Anblick eines Taschendiebes gebracht (womöglich ein Komplize des Taschenspielers?), der eine staunende Zuschauerin gerade um ihren Geldbeutel erleichtert…

Die Marke ist Teil eines Blocks mit sechs Bosch-Motiven.

Mehr Lektüre zu magischen Briefmarken gibt es hier, hier und hier.