St James and the Magician Hermogenes

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St James and the magician Hermogenes in a showdown

St James and the magician Hermogenes in a showdown

This series is in 2 parts. I will include the first one today. The story behind this print is that the Jews had hired a magician named Hermogenes to thwart St. James (son of Zebedee). There are various versions of the story, in one the assistant of Hermogenes is converted, in another Hermogenes himself accepts Christ. In this series by Bruegel we have the following view. James has been in Judea to preach the gospel. Pharisees and Jews having hired Hermogenes to use witchcraft and magic to fight the saints miraculous powers. When the demons came upon James they cried out “have pity on us – behold we burn before our time!”…James is here in the studio of sorcery, presumably that of Hermogenes. The latin caption declares “Saint James by devilish arts is placed before the magician”. Hermogenes, surrounded by his monsters and misshapen devils sits at the left, hunched over a book of spells. The Saint shows no fear, even amid the black magic vileness and viciousness. In fact – of the two Hermogenes appears more uneasy. All Hell has broken loose in the chamber; naked witches dangle their breasts as they fly astride dragons and billy goats above…a real Hallowe ‘en broomstick witch is flying up (or down) the chimney, another is at the peak of the chimney hood top right. A diabolical toad seeks to out stare a cat at the hearth. A hole has broken through into the rooms subconscious – the cellar below, sinister monsters huddle there. The sun faced horror with upraised arms just behind Hermogenes is the twin of Satan the prince, seen in another print of Bruegels.

Such is the nature of this fantastic confrontation between saint and sorcerer. It is significant that most spectators today undoubtedly find the demonic sideshow much more interesting than the quiet strength of the Saint.

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