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"Faust Conjures up the Spirits" (c. 1840)
The story of Faust, a scholar so hungry for the power of universal knowledge that he makes a pact with the devil, has fascinated writers and their audiences for centuries – almost since the life of the actual Johann (actually, Georg) Faust (c. 1480-c. 1540), a German physician, alchemist, and magician. Numerous treatments of the Faust story have appeared the centuries, including Christopher Marlowe's drama, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (premiered c. 1592). The theme preoccupied Goethe throughout his literary career. This image is an illustration from an 1840 edition of his central drama, Faust Part One (first published in 1808). It shows Faust conjuring up the spirits, the first step toward his later “Faustian pact.” Detail of a painting by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein (1788-1868), c. 1840.