Friday, September 6, 2013

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Watercolor Mr. Punch and His Bottler

Punch & Judy
E. Masters
Nineteenth Century
Ink and Watercolor on Paper, Unique
Tate Britain

While not much in practice today, earlier Punch & Judy shows often featured a “bottler.” The bottler acted as an assistant to the “Professor” by corralling people toward the stage. He would attract interest by playing an instrument—a drum, a violin—and acted basically as a warm-up act. Sometimes, the bottler would interact with the puppets.

Here, we see a Nineteenth Century watercolor, pen and ink drawing by English artist E. masters depicting a scene of a Punch & Judy show about to begin. The bottler bangs his drum to alert the crowds. He also seems to be playing a mouth organ which is attached to a support around his neck. Curiously, Mr. Punch appears to have already captured “the Devil” who is either impaled on the end of his slapstick or hanging from the top of the tent.

This whimsical drawing neatly captures the playful spirit of a live Punch & Judy performance. It was purchased as part of a larger collection by the Tate Britain in 1996.

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