Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe, Faust and the Earth Spirit, ca. 1810-12.
Goethe’s own illustration of a crucial moment in Night, the play’s first scene (after the prologues). In what literary critic Friedrich Kittler referred to as the first instance in the history of German drama of an impracticable stage direction, Faust ‘mysteriously pronounces’ the sign of the earth spirit—which then appears in a flame.
(Note: Peter Salm’s translation here simplifies the original slightly by rendering the direction as ‘solemnly murmurs.’)
The concept of the ‘earth spirit’ refers to a (prescientific) conception of a principle force governing all of nature, akin to the religious notion of god but not so much associated with the traditional European theological doctrine as with certain cabbalistic and spiritualistic traditions propagated during the Early Modern Period.
Works consulted: Jesse, Horst. Faust in der Bildenden Kunst. Munich: Utz, 2005. Kittler, Friedrich. Discourse Networks 1800/1900. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1992.
via Wikimedia Commons. Image in the Public Domain.