By Ken Trombly - Thursday, August 12, 2021
If you are a fan of iconic magic imagery, then you likely have a place in your heart for early illustrations of Cups And Balls performers. These are usually European engravings, the majority of which that I have encountered are French, depicting l’escamoteur—which loosely translates to the person who whisks stuff away—and which might also explain the etymology of the word, “scam.”
The variety of these quaint images is a testament to the apparent popularity of this form of street entertainment in early 19th century France. This particular image is a favorite, as it is kind of a snapshot, depicting the performer, looking out to the audience, as one hand digs into his bag—or gibeciere—about to steal the next load. It is from a set of hand tinted engravings that depict various characters encountered in quotidian Paris some 200 years ago.
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