© Musee d'Art et d'Histoire, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France/ Giraudon/ The Bridgeman Art Library
Born Jerome van Aeken, Bosch painted during the late Middle Ages. He spent his entire artistic career in the small Dutch town of Hertogenbosch, from which he derived his artistic name. Satirical yet moralistic, Bosch's paintings reflect a deep-rooted pessimism. At the time of his death, Bosch was internationally celebrated as an eccentric painter of religious visions who dealt in particular with the torments of hell. During his lifetime Bosch's works were in the inventories of noble families of the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain, and they were imitated in a number of paintings and prints throughout the 16th century, especially in the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
The date of this painting varies from source to source; however, it is generally placed circa the late 15th century or the early 16th century.
The Conjurer illustrates a Medieval fair, focusing on a conjurer performing a Cups and Balls act. A small child dressed in similar garb to the conjurer is pick-pocketing the lady staring in disbelief. While the child might be functioning on his own, it seems probable that the performer and the child are working together, splitting the spoils. Nonetheless, there is also a lady behind this mesmerized woman stealing from her as well!
Bosch is making a poignant statement about people's morality and the importance of paying attention to one's surroundings.