Friday, March 1, 2013

Painting of the Day: Pulcinella and Lucretia, 1742

Pulcinella and Lucretia
Portion of a Mural of Sixteen Panels
by Andien de Clermont , 1742

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Wealthy landowners in the Eighteenth Century (as now) always sought ways to show their status. One of the best ways to do this was to adorn their grand homes in the most fashionable manner. Mural painting in a grand house was a sure indicator of wealth and status. Noble and wealthy families would commission artists (usually from France, The Netherlands or Italy) to decorate the walls of their homes with fantastical scenes which demonstrated the owner's learning, allegiance and sophisticated taste.

Here, we see a portion of a mural comprised of a series of 16 panels which were originally commissioned by Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore, in 1742 to decorate the “Scaramouche Parlour” in his house, Belvedere, in Kent.

The panels show scenes from the Commedia dell'Arte, depicting a number of the tradition’s stock characters which included Scaramouche; the Capitano, a swaggering, blustering coward; Arlecchino (who became the Harlequin of pantomime); Pulcinella (who inspired the English Punch); Pedrolino (later Pierrot); and Colombine (a serving maid with an amorous association with Harlequin or Pierrot).

The scenes were the 1742 work of the French artist Andien de Clermont (active 1716-1783) who was considered the most avant-garde and highly-inventive artist working in Britain during the Rococo period.

This scene depicts Pulcinella and Lucretia. We see a man in a blue shirt and a woman in a pink skirt in foreground. To the right of the woman is a large urn filled with flowers. In the background, we see a scene of buildings and a woman chasing a man, trying to beat him over the head with a club (these two figures are dressed identically to the two main figures in the foreground). Clearly, this is meant to show the love/hate aspect of most romantic entanglements and one of the main themes associated with Pulcinella. Evidence of the development of Punch and Judy is quite clear in the depiction of violent romance and potential clubbing.

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