|A Puppet Showman|
The British Museum
This work of watercolor is one of a series of eight which depicted Commedia dell’Arte characters. Attributed to Jean Berain (after a century of being attributed to Marcellus Laroon II), the series dates between 1640-1711. It’s likely that these drawings were made as studies for larger-scale paintings. We do know that the series was used as inspiration for a set of engravings which were published in the Eighteenth Century.
The image above depicts a puppet showman posed on a platform. He holds a wand or flute to which he points and is costumed in a wide-brimmed hat, a doublet, petticoat breeches and a pink cloak. Curiously, he wears a necklace of teeth around his neck. We see behind him, his fit-up and two puppets. They are, of course, Mr. Punch and his wife, Judy.
The British Museum acquired the series in 1852.