See Karla Langedijk, Die Selbstbildnisse der holländischen und flämischen Künstler in der Galleria degli Autoritratti der Uffizien in Florenz (Florence, 1992), 61–63, where Van Laer’s earlier self-portrait in the Galleria Pallavicini, Rome and other evidence for his appearance are also discussed.
Mario Giuseppe Genesi, “Per una decodifica dei dettagli magico-musicali nella Scena Magica con Autoritratto di Pieter Bodding van Laer,” Music in Art 30, nos. 1–2 (2005): 89, suggested that the smoke was from burning incense.
De Gheyn’s drawing is in the Kupferstichkabinet, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin; Bloemaert’s painting is in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; Fetti’s is in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. In the case of De Gheyn, the subject seems of a piece with several scenes of witchcraft he drew at about the same time. On this point see Linda C. Hults, The Witch as Muse: Art, Gender, and Power in Early Modern Europe (Philadelphia, 2005), 152–57.
The Kabbalah, along with magic and astrology, was one of the many controversial interests that doomed Giordano Bruno (burned at the stake in Rome on 17 February 1600), as discussed in Karen Silvia de León-Jones, Giordano Bruno and the Kabbalah: Prophets, Magicians, and Rabbis (Lincoln, NE, 2004). All of Bruno’s writings were placed on the Index in 1603.
The numbers in a column (6?, 4, and 7) could be the beginning of a magic square (in which the numbers in each column, row, and main diagonal yield the same sum).
Kathryn Paulsen, The Complete Book of Magic and Witchcraft (New York, 1980), 149. When the point is at the top it represents the deity.
These alternatives are described in Mario Giuseppe Genesi, “Per una decodifica dei dettagli magico-musicali nella Scena Magica con Autoritratto di Pieter Bodding van Laer,” Music in Art 30, nos. 1–2 (2005): 91–95.
As suggested in Laurence Wuidar, “Magie démoniaque et allégorie de l’ouïe: Le canon musical dans les vanités de Breughel, Natali et Van Laer,” Annales d’histoire de l’art et d’archéologie 27 (2005): 106–7, where crabs are also said to be associated with love and fortune because of their reversals and conflicts.
For this history, see, among others, H. A. M. Snelders, De geschiedenis van de scheikunde in Nederland, vol. 1, Van alchemie tot chemie en chemische industrie rond 1900 (Delft, 1993), 11–25; Lawrence M. Principe and Lloyd DeWitt, Transmutations—Alchemy in Art: Selected Works from the Eddleman and Fisher Collections at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (Philadelphia, 2002); and Lawrence M. Principe, The Secrets of Alchemy (Chicago, 2013), especially chapter 5: “The Golden Age: Practicing Chymistry in the Early Modern Period.”
Roeland van Laer, Bentveughels in a Roman Tavern, ca. 1626, oil on canvas, 88.5 x 147.5 cm, Museo di Roma, inv. no. 26031. For a discussion of this painting, see Thomas Kren, “Chi non vuol Baccho: Roeland van Laer’s Burlesque Painting about Dutch Artists in Rome,” Simiolus 11 (1980): 63–80; and David A. Levine and Ekkehard Mai, eds., I Bamboccianti: Niederländische Malerrebellen im Rom des Barock (Exh. cat. Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum; Utrecht, Centraal Museum) (Milan, 1991), 209–11, no. 20.1.
Associations between the texts in these two paintings were first made in David A. Levine and Ekkehard Mai, eds., I Bamboccianti: Niederländische Malerrebellen im Rom des Barock (Exh. cat. Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum; Utrecht, Centraal Museum) (Milan, 1991), 199–201, no. 19.7.
David A. Levine, “Pieter van Laer’s Artists’ Tavern: An Ironic Commentary on Art,” in Holländische Genremalerei im. 17. Jahrhundert: Symposium Berlin 1984, ed. Henning Bock and Thomas W. Gaehtgens, special issue no. 4, Jahrbuch Preussischer Kulturbesitz (1987): 175–76.
A figure or other form in the center of the wall has been rubbed out, perhaps because of some obscene aspect, as suggested by Holm Bevers, Aus Rembrandts Zeit: Zeichenkunst in Hollands Goldenem Jahrhundert (Exh. cat. Berlin, Kupferstichkabinet, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) (Berlin, 2011), 95, under no. 66.
The figure has been identified in the past as Pan or Chonos, whose attributes include satyr’s legs and wings, respectively (but not in combination). Many of Guaccius’s woodcut illustrations are reproduced in Emile Grillot de Givry, Illustrated Anthology of Sorcery, Magic and Alchemy (London, 1991). Compare also the devil with wings, horns, and satyr’s legs in Willem van Swanenburgh’s engraving of 1609, A Beardless Youth and the Devil at an Easel, which is compared with a similar print, of 1550, by D. V. Coornhert after Maarten van Heemskerck, in Claudia Swan, Art, Science, and Witchcraft in Early Modern Holland: Jacques de Gheyn II (1565–1629) (Cambridge, 2005), 184–85, fig. 67. The devil and Death (in the form of a skeleton) appear as a pair in numerous sixteenth-century prints, such as Death and the Devil Come for the Card Player in Hans Holbein the Younger’s famous series of woodcuts The Dance of Death (1523–26). The group to the right in Van Laer’s drawing bears some resemblance to Holbein’s ensemble, especially as seen in the reversed version by the monogrammist GS.
See Jennifer Montagu, The Expression of the Passions (New Haven and London, 1994), chap. 5, on this tradition, mainly in Rome; and Dagmar Hirschfelder, Tronie und Porträt in der niederländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 2008), 321–34. On the theoretical background, see Franziska Gottwald, Das Tronie: Muster, Studie und Meisterwerk (Berlin and Munich, 2011), chap. 2.
Interestingly, Van Laer originally included a raised hand in the left background of Self-Portrait with Magic Scene, as in Boy Bitten by a Lizard, although such excited gestures are common in Italian baroque art.
Irving Lavin, “Bernini’s Bust of the Medusa: An Awful Pun,” in Docere, delectare, movere: affetti, devozione e retorica nel linguaggio artistico del primo barocco romano. Atti del convegno organizzato dall’Instituto olandese a Roma e dalla Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max-Planck-Institut) in collaborazione con l’Università cattolica di Nijmegen. Roma, 19–20 gennaio, 1996 (Rome, 1998), 165, fig. 20, relates The Damned Soul to other expressive heads by Bernini and to the sculptor’s admiration of the ancient Laocoön.
See the case of Bruno mentioned in note 4 above. Galileo was tried and convicted by the Inquisition in Rome in 1633. See also David Freedberg, The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History (Chicago and London, 2002), esp. 59–62 on “Cassiano’s drawings and beliefs.”
Entry based on a 2012 examination report by Sophie Scully, paintings conservation department intern, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.