Friday, April 5, 2013

Mr. Punch in the Arts: An Eighteenth Century Italian Pulcinello

Pulcinello Performer
Carlo Lasinio

As we know, our Mr. Punch is a close relative to Italy’s Pulcinello. While the two characters aren’t identical, they’re clearly related and have the same sawdust running through their veins (pardon my love of puppet humor). In this Italian painting from 1780 by Florentine painter Carlo Lasinio, we can get a sense of Punch’s transformation.

The figure shown in this painting is more “Punch” than he is Pulcinello. Though the costume is Pulcinello’s traditional white robe, the face is clearly that of Mr. Punch. By this point (as of 1662, in fact), Pulcinello shows were being performed in Britain as Punchinello, (shortened to Punch) and had already begun to take on the form we know today. During the Eighteenth Century, Punch was still a marionette. The figure shown in this Italian painting is a glove-puppet. So, again, we see some evolutionary puppet stuff going on. It’s hard to say who is influencing whom here. The puppet’s Punch-like face may be an influence of the British on the Italian, and the glove-figure may be the future influence of the Italian on the British. Regardless, it’s all related, and I think this a charming painting.

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