Devils Dzitts and Hihahox Leading Christ to Hell


James Ensor (1860-1949), Les Diables Dzitts et Hihahox Conduisant le Christ aux Enfers (The Devils Dzitts and Hihahox Leading Christ to Hell), etching and drypoint, 1895, signed and dated in pencil lower right, titled lower left, also countersigned on verso [also signed and dated in the plate]. References: Delteil 88, Croquez 90, Taevernier 90, Elesh 90, only state. Printed on strong tan/ivory wove Japan paper.  In excellent condition, with full margins, 6 5/16 x 8 7/8, the sheet 9 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches.

A fine impression of this enigmatic – and emblematic – Ensor composition.

According to apocryphal texts after his death Christ descended into Limbo to bring redemption to the first sinners, Adam and Eve.  In 1886 Ensor made a drawing of this event, and later made this etching, both with the same curious title. Many years later he explained in a letter to Max Gevers in May 1936 that the title, including the names of the devils, was purely imaginary.

In the etching Christ is led to Satan, who sits at the top of the stairs at the upper left; the two Devils leading Christ are armed and ugly. Fanciful characters and insects crawl along the bottom foreground, and at the lower right is a menacing group of horned and lobster-like creatures – some with faces reminiscent of the masks then available in his mother’s Ostende souvenir shop, still on display there today.

Another fine impression of this print, printed in brown ink, is included in the major Ensor exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.