Friday, April 12, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Painted Panel Depicting Street Performers, 1810

Panel Painting
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This street scene would have been a typical sight in early Nineteenth-Century London. A group of street performers has gathered in an alley. A clown-like jester beats his drum to signal the start of the show which includes a violinist, and, most notably, Mr. Punch peeking out from his theater. Below him, a child reaches out to see if she can touch Mr. Punch.

Since this was painted in 1810, odds are that this was a “Punch and Joan” show as Mr. Punch’s wife’s name had yet to be changed. During this phase of Mr. Punch’s life, his wife was actually the aggressor. Around the time her name changed, so did her personality, and she became the object of Punch’s outbursts as opposed to the cause of it. I find this piece to be incredibly charming—especially the glint in Punch’s eye as he peers out as if to say, “Here, look at me!” Let’s hope Mr. Punch continues to draw a crowd for centuries to come.

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