Friday, June 20, 2014

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Deschars en habit de Polichinel

Deschars en Habit de Polichinel
France, Eighteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Titled, Deschars en habit de Polichinel / au Divertissement de Villeneuue Saint-Georges, this Eighteenth Century French print refers to a character who is very familiar to us. The hooked nose and chin, the pot belly and arching back tell us that the person depicted here is in the guise of Mr. Punch, or technically Polichinelle (Polichinel). Polichinelle is the French version of the Italian commedia dell'arte stock-character, Pulcinella, who developed into Britain’s Mr. Punch when Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660. 

Like Punch, Polichinel was a rogue and an anarchist. He is seen here on a balustraded terrace in profile. His face is covered with a grotesque mask and he wears a soft broad-crowned hat with feathers held in a jewel mount. 

This is actually a depiction of an actor called “Deschars” in character as Polichinelle. This print was part of a collection of theatrical advertisements which was bequeated to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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