Friday, January 31, 2014

Drawing of the Day: La Gran Tragedie di Ariosto, 19th C.

Non e un si bello in tante altre persone, Natura il fece, e poi roppa la stampa.

(There never was such beauty in another man. Nature made him, and then broke the mould.)
                --From "Orlando Furioso" by Ludovico Ariosto

La Gran Tragedie di Ariosto
Naples, Nineteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This illustration comes from Naples and dates to the Nineteenth Century. It’s remarkable to me in that it shows the development of the The Punch and Judy tradition. As we know, Mr. Punch came to the U.K. from Italy where he had his roots in the Italian character, “Pulcinella.” 

The drawing depicts a Pulcinella-type show, however, we can clearly see that the puppets, to me, more so resemble the look of the popular Nineteenth Century Mr. Punch than they do Pulcinella. So popular was Punch that many Italian “Professors” styled their own puppets after the British Red Nose as opposed to their own masked Pulcinella.  

I can't say for certain that this crowd in Naples is watching a variation of a Pulcinella character.  The puppet on the left's costume is that of Arlecchino or "Harlequin." However, I would like to note that he clearly exhibits Mr. Punch's attribute of a humpback--not something usually associated with Harlequin. 

The title of the performance (as depicted on the front of the fit-up) is "la gran tragedie di Ariosto.” The title refers to “Orlando Furioso,” an epic poem by Ludovico Ariosto. This poem was a popular subject for traveling puppet shows.

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