With the portfolio Jahrmarkt, conceived and executed in the year 1921, Max Beckmann turned to a theme that had and would continue to inspire many modern artists: that of wandering players, the circus and fairground attractions. Yet while Picasso in his Saltimbanque Suite (see lots 68 and 69) was interested in the romantic, yet melancholic and precarious existence of the Parisian street players, and later Fernand Leger and Henri Matisse (see lots 30 and 41) were fascinated by the colourful displays and the excitement of the circus spectacle, Beckmann's attitude is far more distanced. With his satirical eye and sharp drypoint needle he exposed the banality and absurdity of this popular entertainment. This critical stance is however alleviated by Beckmann's sense of humour and irony, with which - in one of his great self-portraits - he casts himself in the role of the barker, who's job it is to sell all these attractions, in the first plate of the portfolio. It is not surprising that, in his various letters to the publisher, Reinhard Piper, 'amusing' is the one word Beckmann chose repeatedly to described this series of prints, which is undoubtedly one of his greatest achievements as a printmaker.