Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Tempers flare up in a packed theatre: burning apes hang in the air! Here, James Ensor paints the closing scene of the story Hop-Frog by Edgar Allan Poe. It celebrates the revenge that the court jester Hop-Frog, a cripple dwarf, exacted upon the corrupt king and his seven ministers.
The jester advises the king and his ministers to attend the masquerade ball disguised as chained apes, for the amusement of the people. At the highpoint of the ball, Hop-Frog hoists the eight figures aloft like a chandelier and sets them alight above the heads of the crowd.
Criticaster of power
Ensor, a notoriously critical malcontent, satirizes everything that smacks of power: the army, the church, the judges, the ministers. His paintings and drawings contain numerous monsters and masks. In this way, he depicts the fears and threats of his time and the sanctimony and parochialism of the people. In combination with the overwhelming expressiveness of line, light and colour, this painting is a true signature piece for Ensor.