|A Punch & Judy Show in Naples|
Late Eighteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Of course we know that our Mr. Punch has Italian roots and is descended from the black-masked Commedia dell’ Arte character Pulcinella. By the time Pulcinella had become a marionette—far easier to control than a pesky actor—and traveled to the U.K. his name had become Punchinella and, later, Punch as he took the form of a glove puppet.
But, Pulcinella and his ancestor haven’t been apart. By the early Nineteenth Century, as travel abroad became quite fashionable for high society Londoners, Punch went along with them. Once returned to Italy, Punch—courtesy of his intrepid professors—began to perform on the streets of Italy as he did in London. Sometimes, a professor would join forces with a Pulcinella performer and the two puppets would enjoy a brief reunion.
Such a scene is depicted in this late Eighteenth Century hand-colored lithograph signed G. Torino which is entitled “A Punch & Judy Show in Naples.” Here, we see Mr. Punch in his red costume alongside his ancestor, the white-robed Pulcinella. I’m sure it was a joyful reunion indeed.