In the 21st Century it is rare to see a 'bust' made of someone. I think this artform began to fade when photography was invented. In the Victorian Era, busts and statues were often scene in well to do homes. Many of the greatest magicians of all time came out of this period in time. Well, a company called Spectral Motion, owned and operated by Mike and Mary Elizalde have created a series of bronze busts of 6 of magic's most famous entertainers. All of these individuals were born in the 19th Century. Please enjoy these wonderful works of art.
Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin
(b.Dec 7,1805 d. June 13, 1871) Known to all of us as the Father of
Modern Magic. He was the great French Conjurer who we still revere
today. Inventor of many incredible automaton like Antonio Diavolo and
the Fantastic Blooming Orange Bush. Also, creator of incredible magic
like the Ethereal Suspension, which in updated forms is still presented
Another of his iconic creations was the Light & Heavy Chest, which was used not only to amaze and impress but also to stop a tribal uprising in French Algeria.
A full size statue of Robert Houdin resides in front of the Maison de la Magie in Blois France.
Alexander Herrmann (b. Feb 10,1844 d. Dec 17, 1896)
GREAT Herrmann is considered by many to be the first in the line of the
famed Mantle of Magic. He was also a Frenchman, like Houdin, but made
his fame here in America. Originally, he worked with his brother
Compars, until he went out on his own. Compars Herrmann was equally as
famous in Europe as his younger brother was in America. The Herrmann's
had a Mephistopholean appearance that added to their mystery and
he had a very mysterious appearance, his magic and performance was
filled with comedy. He was also known to do magic off-stage in public
places. Perhaps we should credit Alexander Herrmann with being the
creator of 'Street Magic'!
died suddenly on a train in 1896. His wife Adelaide took over the show
and was joined by her nephew Leon, who also bore a striking resemblance
(b. July 11, 1849 d. March 10,1922) Here we have the Dean of Magicians.
So called, because he was the first 'Dean' of the Society of American
Magicians. Harry Kellar was the first nationally famous American born
magician. The second in line for the Mantle of Magic, though
technically, it really started with him, though some do put Herrmann
Kellar began his
career as an apprentice to the Fakir of Ava. He went out on his own for a
short time and eventually went to work for the Davenport Brothers. When
he had a falling out with one of the brothers, he left them and took
another employee, William Fay, with him. They toured North and South
America and were heading to Europe when a ship wreck ended their tour.
Kellar found his
way back to the U.S. and rebuilt his show and went on to have a
flourishing career. He and Herrmann, though not friends, shared a secret
that I will reveal a bit later in this article.
March 24,1874 d. Oct 31, 1926) The most famous magician in the world,
who wanted to be known as an 'escape artist' for much of his life, and
then as an actor, producer and later as an author and scientific
investigator. Eventually, he would return to magic in a grand way with
his Three In One Show of Magic, Escapes and Spiritualist
Exposures. Houdini is likely responsible for inspiring more people into
magic than anyone alive. I know my own push into magic came from
creation of the Magic Detective Blog, really has a lot to do with
Houdini. There are 172 articles on the blog that are either about or
that refer to Harry. The next closest is Harry Kellar with 32. He is an
icon, a legend and the bust of Houdini created by Spectral Motion
captures Houdini in all his splendor. He looks confident, proud and
defiant. It's a fantastic image of the Master Mystifier.
Howard Thurston (b. July 20, 1869 d. April 13, 1936)
If we talk of the Mantle of Magic, Howard received the Mantle of Magic
from Harry Kellar in a ceremony at Ford's Theatre in Baltimore on May
16th, 1908. In all truth, it had more to do with Kellar selling his show
to Thurston, but it sure made a great publicity campaign and a
tradition that has continued up until present time.
always thought Thurston was a great performer. But I never quite knew
the whole story until Jim Steinmeyer published an incredible biography
on Thurston called, The Last Greatest Magician In The World. It is a must read for anyone interested in magic or magic history.
Thurston had been
making plans to pass the Mantle of Magic onto one of his associates,
Harry Jansen, known professionally as Dante. There was never an official
ceremony however because Thurston died suddenly.
Chung Ling Soo (b. April 2, 1861 d. March 23, 1918)
I must admit when I first looked over the list
people who were selected for bronzes, the one odd one was Chung Ling
Soo, at least to me. He was born William Ellsworth Robinson and in all
truth, his inclusion in this list is well deserved. Robinson worked for
Alexander Herrmann. Later, he worked for Harry Kellar. Robinson was
the 'secret' that I referred to earlier. He worked for the rival
magicians before his own rise to fame. He was known as the most
knowledgeable man in magic during his time. He played an important part
in the success of both.
also has a connection to Thurston. He allowed Thurston to show Leon
Herrmann his version of the Rising Cards, and when it amazed Herrmann,
Thurston publicized himself as 'The Man Who Fooled Herrmann'. The
meeting would never have happened without Robinson however.
went out on his own, he failed miserably. It wasn't until he came up
with the idea of doing an Chinese after seeing Ching Ling Foo, that
things really took off for him. So convincing was he in his performance
that the public was unaware that Soo was really an American. They truly
bought into the idea that he was Chinese. He even used an interpreter
when he gave interviews. He is the only real life magician who gets a
spot in the movie 'The Prestige'. He also had one of the most tragic
deaths in the history of magic having been killed while performing the
dangerous Bullet Catching Feat.
All of these
busts are a little over 12 inches tall. They are made of bronze and are
available for purchase. They were produced in limited quantities of 40,
so there isn't a huge supply, but there are some that remain. They are
all on display at the Magic Castle if you are interested in seeing them
in person. If you want to purchase one of these wonderful works of art,
realize you are not buying a mass produced bust from Target or Walmart.
These are museum quality and exceptional pieces. If you are interested
in purchasing one, and I really encourage you to consider this
investment because once they are gone, they will be gone for good. Below
is the flyer which has all the information for purchasing. You can
reach them at (818)956-6080 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks for Mike and Mary Elizalde for providing all the wonderful photographs and for your great contribution to magic.
*This article also appears on my MagicDetective Blog.