It’s possible that this portrait, by artist John “The Cornish Wonder” Opie (1761-1807), is just what it seems, a depiction of a boy in an ordinary top hat holding his catch of the day. But I have reason to believe that the hat is in fact “the” hat. The fabled “Master’s Hat,” created by Alexis Marbrand, the so-called Bandit Magician of Fife (1416-1478), hundreds of years before the first top hats made their appearances in the world of fashion, near the end of the 18th century.
How many magicians and magical historians have died in the pursuit of this one highly elusive object is unknown, but surely the number must lie in the hundreds. Who the boy is, and what became of him, is quite unknown, though he does bear a surprising resemblance to a young Alfred Monroe (1781-1830), the famed demon hunter of London.
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