This allegorical image on the theme of class injustice is based on an 1845 short story by Edgar Allen Poe, one of Ensor’s favorite authors. It illustrates the revenge of a court jester, a crippled dwarf named Hop-Frog, against an unjust king and his seven corrupt ministers. On the occasion of a masquerade ball, the king is persuaded by the jester to trick his guests by disguising himself and his ministers as chained orangutans. Ensor pictured the final scene of the story, when Hop-Frog has caught the eight “orangutans” on a chandelier hook, hoisted them above the party, and used a torch to set them on fire. A comparison of the color version to the black-and-white version of Hop-Frog’s Revenge shows that the artist’s hand coloring added structure, clarity, and narrative dimension to the almost overwhelming detail of the black-and-white print.
Visit MoMA.org to view the black-and-white version of Hop Frog’s Revenge.