Friday, March 15, 2013

The Art of Play: The Three-Headed Scaramouche, 1870-1890

Scaramouche--Trick Marionette
The Tiller Clowes Troupe, 1870-1890
Restored by George Speaight
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Another marionette from the Victorian troupe of the Tiller-Clowes family, this figure depicts Mr. Scaramouche, a character which was adapted from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte to the English Punch and Judy tradition.

Made between 1870 and 1890, the marionette still wears his original costume and survives in excellent condition. Whether a glove puppet or a marionette, Scaramouche is often employed as a trick puppet. Usually, his neck extends to twice the length of his body, however, this example is a little different.

He features three heads. The two smaller heads are inserted in the larger head which is supported by the body. The largest head wears a purple silk hat, the second head wears a striped cotton hat and the third is hatless. At the point in the show when Scaramouche becomes overwhelmed by Mr. Punch, typically, he shows his frustration by having his neck extend upward. In this case, however, instead of his neck growing, Scaramouche shows his angst by having the two smaller heads pop out of the largest head—creating a comic effect of utter confusion. 

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