Thematic album for the International Day of Magicians

Every year on March 24, the unusual holiday is celebrated - the international day of illusionists or magicians. The International Magicians Society (IMS) established the holiday. The date was not chosen by chance – it is the birthday of Harry Houdini (1874-1826).

Illusionism, sometimes called magic, is a form of performing art characterized by using the sleight of hand, smart tricks, or special apparatus for creating the illusion of alteration the common physical properties of well-known objects. The name comes from the French word "illusionner" - "to mislead." The art of illusion is as age-old as humanity itself is. Sleight of hand, unmistakable use of psychological peculiarities of people, the ability to distract, or, conversely, to attract their attention, technical novelties made it possible to create amazing illusions. It is widely accepted that the art of illusion (tricks) originated in Ancient Egypt about five thousand years ago. For example, magicians of that time (most often they were priests) knew how to make jewelry disappear and appear. During the tricks, huge statues of the gods grew out of the ground. These statues could stretch out their hands to the public, they could even cry. Medieval magicians showed little activity, since they were equated with the messengers of the devil and became chased persons, persecuted and put to death. Only in the 17th – 18th centuries, during the heyday of the Enlightenment era, illusionists began to receive universal recognition.

The image of a magician in art is reflected quite abundantly, moreover, different artists present them in different contexts, ranging from crooks to wizards. The audience, realizing that there is a catch somewhere, still examines, gasps and applauds. Of course, it is worth talking only about true masters, about people who have reached authentic heights in this complex business. At the same time, we assume that the focus is not a miracle, not magic, but a paradox of vision - the viewer's perception. Moreover, each magician has his own secret, invisible to a person that is not initiated in the secrets of illusion. High-quality equipment and stage requisites are of great importance - boxes with double bottom, hidden elements, springs, special arrangement of mirror panels. All this allows you creating proper conditions. Hence, the picture of mesmerizing tricks would be incomplete without the charm and talent of a magician. He keeps the audience in suspense, forcing the people to wonder at everything that happens. The trick is to create illusory perception, optical deception among the audience, switching attention to different paths, a lot of work and a little bit of magic.

Double miracle occurs when the trick and its performer are depicted as mechanical automatic composition. The creation of automata – automata of the past pursues several goals, including the subconscious desire of the master to feel like a Creator, similar to a higher being (Ens Supremum), the ability to create devices imitating the actions and deeds of people. Automata were widely used already in Ancient Greece for ritual purposes, from where the word “android" came. In the Greek “human creature, man” with the suffix “oid” – “ad instar” – “humanlike”. Mechanical sculptures of the gods were used during the annual Eleusinian Mysteries*. Herodotus mentions speaking figures at the entrance to the temples. Philo of Byzantine invented a mechanical female servant that mixed wine and water in one vessel thanks to the simplest laws of physics.

The museum Collection section "Amusing Automata"  features many multifarious mechanisms, created by the best craftsmen of their time: Jean Roullet, Henri Ernest Decamps, Léopold Lambert, Pierre Jaquet-Droz and others. Naturally, the creators of automata did not overlooked the images of illusionists and magicians, thereby uniting the two arts’ directions in one piece of art.

We would like to bring to your attention a selection of automata magicians from the museum Collection exposition.
Thematic album for the International Day of Magicians is posted in the museum Photo gallery.

On the cover: Musical automaton "Magician". France, 1890. Leopold Lambert

*The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiations held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at the Panhellenic Sanctuary of Eleusis in ancient Greece.