Friday, October 4, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Callot Pulcinella Dwarf, 19th C.

Figurine of a Dwarf
French, Nineteenth Century
Based on an engraving by Jacques Callot
The Victoria & Albert Museum

On Tuesday, we looked at one of a series of figurines which were produced in France in the Nineteenth Century and were modeled after images created by Jacques Callot (1592-1635) who was artistically inspired by a troupe of “grotesque” dwarf entertainers known as “Les Gobbi.”

Callot’s other great interest was the Italian tradition of the Commedia dell’Arte. Since Les Gobbi incorporated many facets of the Commedia into their act, the troupe was of great appeal to Callot who was fascinated by their costumes and their melodramatic antics.

This figure of multi-colored, glazed porcelain depicts one of Callot’s drawings of a member of “Les Gobbi.” This little fellow, a masked dwarf musician plucking a violin, is clearly based on the Commedia dell’Arte stock character, Puclinella, who, as we know, is Mr. Punch’s Italian ancestor. The dwarf wears a wee black Pulcinella mask and affects some of the grotesque features which we’ve come to associate with our Old Red Nose. That’s the way to do it.

And, don’t worry. It’s not another day devoted to dwarf-related are. It’s Friday, so it’s a Mr. Punch day! Let’s carry on. Shall we?

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