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The Curious Life and Work of Matthias Buchinger

World-famous illusionist, author, and actor Ricky Jay has spent decades captivated by Buchinger’s life and remarkably delicate drawings

Matthias Buchinger was a renowned German artist, magician, and musician of the early eighteenth century. He grew to stand only 29 inches tall, and was born without hands or feet, yet made extraordinary accomplishments in various fields during his lifetime. He performed magic and poetry for three successive German emperors, entertained kings, and was a frequent guest at noble houses; he was equally celebrated as a calligrapher, draftsman, poet, and micrographer, creating inscriptions that described his physical condition as well as his artistic and personal triumphs. Known as “the Little Man of Nuremberg,” his work was celebrated across Europe and Britain throughout his lifetime.

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Cover from “Matthias Buchinger: The Greatest German Living,” by Ricky Jay, published by Siglio, 2016

World-famous  illusionist, author, and actor Ricky Jay has spent decades captivated by Buchinger’s life and remarkably delicate drawings. On January 8th, the Museum will launch Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger’s Drawings from the Collection of Ricky Jay, featuring 15 drawings from Jay’s collection, and will exclusively launch Jay’s new book, Matthias Buchinger: “The Greatest German Living.”

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Stipple engraving of Buchinger self-portrait ([London], 1724), 7 1/2 x 11 5/8 in. (Collection of Ricky Jay) from “Matthias Buchinger: The Greatest German Living,” by Ricky Jay, published by Siglio, 2016

The exhibition serves as part of the centennial celebration of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Drawing and Prints. The department’s astounding collection of prints now numbers over a million works that represent the full scope of printmaking in Europe and the Americas from approximately 1400 to 2015, ranging from the earliest known European woodcuts of the fifteenth century to Rembrandt and Goya’s experimental etchings, Pablo Picasso’s linocuts, Mexican broadsides, and Kara Walker’s offset lithographs. Brilliantly mixing the exceptional with the everyday, the Museum’s collection is the most comprehensive in the United States and rivals the eminent and much older collections at the British Museum, London, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, and the Albertina in Vienna.

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(Detail) Stipple engraving of Buchinger self-portrait ([London], 1724), 7 1/2 x 11 5/8 in. (Collection of Ricky Jay) from “Matthias Buchinger: The Greatest German Living,” by Ricky Jay, published by Siglio, 2016

Mr. Jay will discuss the book and his collection in conversation with New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman on Thursday, January 21st at 6:30 pm at Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. Tickets are available for purchase here. Signed copies of Matthias Buchinger: The Greatest German Living by Ricky Jay will be available for purchase before and after the talk.

Shop the book now here

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  1. Thanks for helping the public discover and explore the life of this amazing artist, magician, showman, and human being.

    Reply

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