Friday, July 15, 2011

Mr. Punch in the Arts: “Mr. Polichinel,” 1870-1871

Mr. Polichinel
French, 1870-1871
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Mr. Punch, being rather satirical in his own right, was often employed as a satirical device. For example, here’s a French caricature which paints French ruler Napoleon III as the iconic puppet. The Emperor is depicted with Mr. Punch’s features, wearing a brightly-hued costume and a bi-cornered hat. The smoking leader is leaning upon a wooden sword.

This print is from a set of caricatures, broadsheets and illustrations which was published in ten volumes. Also included in this unflattering group is a caricature of Emile Olivier on the right. This French official is depicted as a monkey, who hangs from a post by his tail. We also see, on the ground to the left, is the Prince Imperial, who is shown as a monkey as well.

The politics of the whole thing are rather too complicated to sum up in one blog post. But, as a work of art, it’s most alluring.

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