Exhibitions/ Wordplay

Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger's Drawings from the Collection of Ricky Jay

At The Met Fifth Avenue
January 8–April 11
Exhibitions are free with Museum admission.

Related Publication

This book includes a selection of remarkable drawings and etchings by the "Little Man of Nuremberg," from the collection of Ricky Jay.

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Exhibition Overview

This installation of drawings, prints, and related ephemera by the German artist and performer Matthias Buchinger (1674–1739) explores for the first time the oeuvre of the so-called Little Man of Nuremberg. Standing only twenty-nine inches high, and born without hands or feet, Buchinger was celebrated in his own time as a draftsman and calligrapher as well as a magician and musician. He boasted a clientele that included noblemen, kings, and emperors, along with members of the public who visited him at inns and fairs from Leipzig to Paris and from London to Belfast.

Buchinger's remarkably delicate drawings often exploited flowing lines of microscopic texts to build up figures and elaborate scenes, an ancient Jewish technique known as micrography. The vast majority also incorporate calligraphic inscriptions that describe his physical condition as well as his artistic and personal triumphs. His main subjects include family trees, coats of arms, the Ten Commandments, and portraits. The works on display are drawn primarily from the collection of the master conjurer and author Ricky Jay. Framing them are works on paper from the Met's collection, dating from the late Middle Ages to the present day, that artfully play with words or typography.

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Exhibition Objects




Anonymous, British, 18th century. Portrait of Matthias Buchinger, dated 1705 by Buchinger in pen and red ink. Engraving. Collection of Ricky Jay