Magic art

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The magic art (also: Zaubern , Zaubererei ) describes a form of the performing arts that understands it, through artistic communication (verbal and non-verbal) and using different techniques and methods illusions in the minds of the viewer and feelings in the hearts of the people trigger. The demonstration is not tied to any specific room or situation. The more willing the viewer is to be enchanted, the greater the illusion can arise in his imagination.

Hieronymus Bosch : The Juggler , 1475–1480


Representation of an illusionist, 17th century

A multitude of different techniques are used to achieve an illusion: psychology, exploitation of gaps in perception, tricks, optical illusions , tricky devices, exploitation of generally unknown physical relationships and mathematical laws.

Magic is used to entertain an audience. Most viewers know that the effects shown are achieved by applying various techniques. The audience either likes to let themselves be enchanted by the magician , or they enjoy puzzling over the methods. In addition to the fascination with an illusion, the attraction of a performance lies primarily in the staging and its entertainment value.


One speaks of magic only since the 18th century. The art of hand-held games, named after the juggler's bag for storing props, was already observed in Hellenistic marketplaces. The first descriptions of magic tricks with playing cards for entertainment purposes date back to 1593, but were not widely used. The first known book, in which concrete magic tricks of professional jugglers are described, was The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot in 1584 and served the enlightenment, since in everything that one did not understand, the devil's work was seen.

With the publication of the first books in the 17th century that describe magic tricks that are easy to understand, magic has developed as a performing arts. A first instruction book for sleight of hand with the title Hocus Pocus Iunior. The Anatomy of Legerdemain was published in London in 1634 .

While the first magicians (pocket players) still appeared on the streets and markets, over time they conquered closed spaces (restaurants, private salons) and finally also theaters. The first protagonists who brought magic to the theater stage and / or presented it as an art form included:


in the 19th century
in the 20th century
in the 21st century

Divisions and types

Pocket player

The historical sleuths were hawkers who used tricks to lure audiences in order to then sell goods. They usually appeared on marketplaces and in inns, often standing behind a table. The pocket player's repertoire was mostly limited to the cup game , in which balls or nutmegs wander under the cups for entertainment purposes. The French “Eskamoteur” and the German loan word “eskamotieren” (manipulate away ) come from the disappearance of a nutmeg (French: escamot).

Street wizardry

Two street wizards

The descendants of the artisans are the street performers . They have to be able to attract their audience under sometimes difficult conditions, for example surrounded, in adverse weather and in front of unpredictable passers-by. Most of the time they play in the hat for a donation.

Stage magic

Tricks that are about the size of the props suitable for a large audience are classified as stage magic. Corresponding performances often use the possibilities of professional stages such as special lighting, etc. Stage magic became known in the 19th century through the French Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin and the British John Henry Anderson .

Grand illusions

Great illusion with Marc & Alex and team

"Illusionists" in the narrow sense are, according to the parlance of magicians, those who work with large trick machines, so-called "grand illusions". The British John Nevil Maskelyne began with these elaborate tricks in his London magic theater at the end of the 19th century . a. was the first to let a person float through a tire. Well-known modern artists are Siegfried and Roy , David Copperfield , Florian Zimmer , Criss Angel , Marc & Alex , Peter Marvey and Hans Klok .

Magic with background music

One of the most important instruments of a magician is his lecture, which stimulates the audience's imagination and distracts them from their secrets. After the magician Theodore Bamberg became mute as a result of an accident, he explained his linguistic inability by taking on the role of a Japanese Okito and at the turn of the century, he was the first to perform magic with musical accompaniment. A genre of its own developed from this, the aesthetics and communication of which follow special laws.


Manipulators in the narrow sense are stage artists who primarily rely on the skill of their hands. They therefore do their magic mostly with handy objects, typically accompanied by music. This genre was developed by Wiljalba Frikell in the 19th century.

In the English-speaking world, demonstrations that are primarily based on manual dexterity are sometimes viewed as a separate branch of entertainment art and referred to as sleight of hand or with the Latin term prestidigitation or the French legerdemain . There is overlap with sleight of hand, close-up magic and card magic. Well-known artists who use manipulation and dexterity are Dan and Dave , Ricky Jay , David Copperfield , Yann Frisch , Dai Vernon and Tony Slydini .

Table magic (micromagic, close-up)

Example of micromagic: penetration of an original coin with a solid metal spike. Amazing: all props can be examined by the viewer before and after the feat.

Tricks that can only be followed from a short distance because of smaller props are usually referred to internally as "Close Up". The special attraction for the audience is the proximity, which apparently makes "cheating" difficult. Typical close-up props are cards and coins. Coming from the USA, so-called "table hopping" has also become established in Germany in recent years, in which the magician wanders from table to table and thus enchants his audience individually and step by step.

In recent years, an internationally unique landscape of private magic theaters that specialize in close-up magic has established itself in Germany. It all started with the world's first Table Magic Theater Krist & Münch in Munich. Shortly thereafter, Strotmann's Magic Lounge in Stuttgart and the Wundermanufaktur in Nuremberg followed.

Card art

Tricks with playing cards are possible both on stage and at the table and are so numerous that the magicians consider card art as a separate division.

Mental magic

Under mentalism refers to the imitation alleged parapsychological phenomena through tricks about apparent mind-reading, the apparent prediction of events or Spukeffekte for entertainment purposes. It comes from the legacy of false spiritualists and tricky charlatans . Since, for dramaturgical purposes, mentalists often do not emphasize that they are magicians and use very sophisticated tricks, viewers cannot easily judge whether what they see is to be taken seriously or not. A well-known representative is Uri Geller .

Comedy wizardry

Some magicians use humor in their shows. In comedy wizardry, this is the main focus, with the magic effects mostly becoming a minor matter. Classic magic tricks are often parodied, tricks seem to go wrong, etc.

Child wizardry

Magic in front of and especially with children is another special form of presentation. It is usually clear to children that the magician cannot actually do magic. What is needed here are artists with good empathy for child-friendly imaginations and spirited reactions.

Peripheral areas

Magic also includes sensational actors and curiosity artists such as escape artists , tricky circus attractions , cardsharps demonstrations, stage bag theft and ventriloquism .


In Germany, every three years, organized by the Magical Circle of Germany , German Magic Championships take place. In addition to the winners in the various categories, the title of German Master of Magic has also been awarded since 2008 . In the following year the international umbrella organization Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques organizes the World Championships of Magic . There too, in addition to the winners in the category, the Grand Prix winner is an overall world champion.

Great magicians

Magicians' associations

The 83 magician organizations from almost 50 countries, united in the umbrella organization Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques , can be found in the list of FISM members . For Germany there is the Magic Circle of Germany .

Magic shop

With the publication of magic tricks, a special retailer has developed over time that develops and produces magic tricks.

The El Rei de la Magia house in Barcelona was one of the first specialty stores that has been producing magic accessories and devices since 1881 and also offering lessons for children and adults .

In Germany it was Ernst Basch who published an illustrated catalog as early as 1867, in which several magic tricks were offered. The so-called magic headquarters of Conradi-Horster in Berlin's Friedrichstrasse can also be mentioned here .

See also


  • Alexander Adrion : The Art of Magic. With a collection of the most interesting art pieces for everyone's benefit and enjoyment . DuMont, Cologne 1990, ISBN 3-7701-1353-5
  • Jürgen A. Alt: Magic. An introduction . Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-15-009390-2
  • Olaf Benzinger: The Book of Magicians . Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-423-24386-4
  • Pierre Breno: dream job: magician. A professional takes a critical look at his job. Giselaverlag, Regensburg 2001. ISBN 3-00-007301-9
  • Oliver Erens : Magic Tricks for Dummies . Wiley, Weinheim 2007. ISBN 978-3-527-70320-3
  • Oliver Erens: Magic for Dummies . Wiley, Weinheim 2011. ISBN 978-3-527-70638-9
  • Brigitte Felderer, Ernst Strouhal: Rare arts. On the cultural and media history of magic. 2006
  • Hanns Friedrich: The art of magic with cards , Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Munich 1981, ISBN 3-442-10859-4 .
  • Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser : Kartenkünste - Collected and edited by Ottokar Fischer, Edition Olms, Zurich 1983, ISBN 3-283-00161-8
  • Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser: Magic Arts - Collected by Ottokar Fischer and edited by Fredo Marvelli , Edition Olms, Zurich 1984, ISBN 3-283-00211-8
  • Natias Neutert: 100 tricks and magic. Rotfuchs series, Rowohlt Taschenbuchverlag, Reinbek near Hamburg, 53. – 55. Thousand 1993, ISBN 3 499 201194
  • Elias Piluland (Ed.): Hocus Pocus Junior. Perfect instruction to learn the art of sleight of hand in the easiest way possible. (Insel-Bücherei, Volume 947) Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt / M. 1970 (repr. Of the Leipzig 1634 edition)
  • David Pogue: Doing Magic for Dummies. Delight your audience with fantastic tricks and captivating words . Mitp, Bonn 2003, ISBN 3-8266-3070-X
  • August Roterberg : New Era Card Tricks. Home Farm Books, New York 2006, ISBN 978-1-4067-9972-9 .
  • Peter Rawert : Is magic an art? Ways to make the impossible visible. Murmann Publishers, Hamburg 2015
  • Reginald Scot: The discoverie of witchcraft . Dover Publications, New York 1989, ISBN 0-486-26030-5 (repr. Of the London 1930 edition, originally 1584)
  • Carl Willmann: manual of classical magic . Ed. L. Moritz, Anaconda Verlag , Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3-86647-581-6
  • Gisela Winkler, Dietmar Winkler: The big hocus pocus. From the life of famous magicians . Henschel-Verlag, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-362-00336-2
  • Wittus Witt : Sleight of hand tricks . Heinrich Hugendubel Verlag, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-88034-273-3
  • Wittus Witt: Magic and Enchanting - A look into contemporary magic , Verlag Eppe, Bergatreute / Aulendorf, 2008, ISBN 978-3-89089-862-9
  • Wittus Witt: From the art of magic - Dedi, Kalanag, Zink ... , publishers Magische Welt, Hamburg, ISBN 978-3-00-051287-2
  • Carl Willmann: manual of classical magic . Ed. L. Moritz, Anaconda Verlag , Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3-86647-581-6
  • Jochen Zmeck : The manual of magic . Standard work for budding magicians. Basis of the examination for admission to the MzvD
  • Jochen Zmeck: Magic with Zmeck . Zauberbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 2007. ISBN 978-3-00-022098-2
  • Aladin (trade journal for the Magic Ring Austria )
  • Magic (only available to members of the Magic Circle of Germany)
  • The magic wand (available only for members of the community of Christian magicians Germany)
  • Magische Welt , magazine for magical art
  • Der Zauberzwerg , trade journal for magic with children, ISSN  1867-5387

Web links

Commons : Magic art  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Pearls of Illusion: Article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of September 27, 2011
  2. Martin Michalski and Ilse Keiler, illustrations by Irene Scharwächter: Magic book for children , Otto Maier Verlag, Ravensburg 1994, 10th edition, ISBN 978-3-473-38941-4 .
  3. Website of El Rei de la Magia ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /