The Fall of the Magician
The Fall of the Magician...literally
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Here is the sequel to the previous scene (St James and the Magician Hermogenes). The reversal has taken place, as indicated by the Latin caption: “God granted the Saint’s prayer that the magician should be torn apart by the demons”. His fall is in full swing now. Recognizably the same as in the previous engravings are the magician and his chair, now topsy-turvy. The Saint too is essentially the same: hat, halo, staff, hand gesture, and general posture. Differences are obvious among the demons, some of whom take part in the gruesome “come-downance”administered to their erstwhile dictator. The remainder are, as it were, otherwise occupied. Comparing this “after”with the “before”picture, one may feel the demons to be protean, transient, melting incessantlyfrom one horrible guise to another. While this may be interpreted as the old “good guy licks bad guy” story – some other interpretations are;
1) it is an allegory that “the make believe kermis (circus) scene Vanity Fair, this world of human folly, will be overthrown by its own vices, which are but agents of Gods will”(Adriaan Barnouw).
2) Tolnay, on the other hand, finds this to be “a satire on the abuses of Inquisition” and a hidden argument for Bruegel’s own “religious-universalist theism which stands above the sects.”
In support of the later interpretation, we note ecclesiastics looking on approvingly from the door behind St. James on the right. Tolney calls them “blind figures, outwordly holy…who witness the murder of their fellow man with solemn seriousness, as if they were seeing a holy act.”
Hermogenes , falling upside down, appears to be “done in”. As a precaution, Tolnay suggests, Bruegel disguised this event as a theatrical scene (jugglers, performers, acrobats, carnival characters, and the sideshow announcement hanging like a flag from the back wall left center). It may be noted that dimly through the window, just to the left of the flagstaff, appear several faces of typical Flemish people, looking on, as if in amusement.