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Oil on canvas
Framed: 76.2 x 9.6 cm (30 x 3 3/4 in.); Unframed: 54.5 cm (21 7/16 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1977.37.4
The artist chose the painting's shape to reference the foundational role of the circle in practicing magic.
In the pitch black of night, two groups of men are gathered in a forest. To the left, travelers apprehensively pause to watch a magician conjure terrifying apparitions. Since the Middle Ages, necromancy, the act of communing with the dead, was associated with male sorcerers. In Rosa's painting, the wizened necromancer who stands tall and resolute directly below a classical column is reminiscent of Moses, a predecessor to Renaissance depictions of sorcerers. Rosa's learned magicians not only invoke associations with philosophers and intellects, but they would have also referred to the artist himself and the intellectual elite with whom he associated in Florence. Just as a powerful magician could conjure strange creatures with his wand, so too could Rosa shape a strange world with his originality, intelligence, and the skillful use of paint and brush.
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