Max Beckmann. Snake Lady (Schlangendame) from Annual Fair (Jahrmarkt). (1921, published 1922)

Max Beckmann Snake Lady (Schlangendame) from Annual Fair (Jahrmarkt) (1921, published 1922)

  • Not on view

Max Beckmann imagines the world as a carnival in this portfolio. On the title page, he casts himself as a barker for a traveling band of outsiders, the Circus Beckmann. Shown ringing a bell, and pointing to the edge of the page, he urges viewers to behold the spectacles unfolding within. In Beckmann's theater of life everyone plays many roles: actor, observer, director. The ten rich, velvety drypoints touch upon the major themes he explored throughout his long and productive career: existential crisis, the alienation of modern life, and the insurmountable conflict between the sexes. Beckmann's Expressionist manipulation of space and his pushing together of figures increase the emotional distance between the individuals, who appear to exist only in worlds unto themselves. Actors corralled together backstage wait patiently, not realizing that their true performance—life itself—has already begun. Beckmann conveys female sexuality as a dangerous lure in scenes set in the shooting gallery, on stage, and behind the scenes. In one print, he depicts himself and his wife, Minna, balancing on a tightrope—an allusion to Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in which the philosopher describes man as a "rope" hung over an abyss between base animal and heroic Übermensch.

Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.
One from a portfolio of ten drypoints
plate: 11 7/16 x 10 1/16" (29 x 25.6 cm); sheet: 20 13/16 x 14 15/16" (52.8 x 38 cm)
Marées-Gesellschaft, R. Piper & Co., Munich
Franz Hanfstaengl, Munich
Portfolio edition, 1922: 200 (including 75 on "Japan" paper, and 125 on wove paper [this ex.]); plus 2 known state proofs and 6 known trial proofs; First posthumous edition, 1966: 110 (including 30 on "Japan" paper, and 80 on wove paper)
Object number
© 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].