Friday, January 7, 2011

Mr. Punch in the Arts: The Audience

Mr. Punch’s influence on all media has endured for centuries. His image has become associated with England, and London, in particular. Many Victorian artists employed Punch’s hooked visage to immediately put the viewer in mind of London squares. A frequent subject of Victorian postcards and ephemera, Mr. Punch was often shown in whimsical situations.

In that spirit, here is a charming cut-out card which was recently sent to me. I find this particularly delightful inasmuch as it portrays two subjects which are quite dear to me—Mr. Punch, and dogs. Here, an audience of canines—some of whom sport jaunty bows—clamor to get a look at Mr. Punch, mimicking a typical London scene of the time, but replacing the usual humans with dogs. I love that Punch even has a canine “bottler”—the fellow who would beat the drum and collect coins from the audience. For some reason, the bottler is wearing a coat and hat even though he’s a dog and despite the fact that the other dogs are nude. Curious and typically Victorian.

Of course, Mr. Punch seems quite pleased (I know) with his audience and delightedly waggles his slapstick in their direction with that wonderful, mad look in his eyes. Long live the art of puppetry, and long may it have dogs to enjoy it!

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