Monday, September 17, 2012

Pierrot's Origins Can Be Found in the Commedia dell'Arte

Pierrot's origins can be found in the Commedia dell'Arte, a 16th century theatrical movement of traveling players who performed (often with favorite "stock" characters) on temporary open air stages. The tragic opera Pagliacci (trans. players or clowns), by Ruggero Leoncavallo, premiered at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan on May 21, 1892. It is a tale of travelling players and features a romantic triangle with a Pierrot-like clown, who betrayed by his wife and a Harlequin-like fellow performer resorts to murder.

Enrico Caruso, 1873-1921, in "Pagliacci,"c. 1908.
Copyright by A. Dupont, N.Y. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 
For a real treat, check out this performance of what is probably the most well known aria in Pagliacci, "Vesti la giubba," sung by Luciano Pavarotti, one of the great tenors of our time.


It was probably in the late 17th century that an Italian troupe known as Comedie-Italienne, while performing in Paris, first introduced Pierrot to the French public.

Pierrot is often depicted as the sad clown, the ever trusting innocent, the sweet-natured soul, whose lover Colombine (sometimes called Colombinette or Colombina) betrays him with the wily Harlequin. But, with the popularity of pantomime, he often stood alone on the stage trying oh, so very hard to express his experience of life, without the words to do so.

SOLD Pierrot and Colombinette asleep on a crescent moon
SOLD  Pierrot wooing Colombine
Paul Cézanne: Pierrot and Harlequin (1888, Oil on canvas)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
SOLD Pierrot, La Colère

By the late 1880s, with the dawning of la Belle Époque, Pierrot was to meet a new friend, Pierrette, who would vie with Colombine for his affections.

SOLD Lily Damita, in a Pierrette-like costume
Pierrot's image was a favorite of Jules Chéret, possibly the most successful commercial artist of the period. In the Fine Arts, the Impressionists, and Post-Impressionists were inspired by Pierrot.

Jules Chéret, 3rd panel of la Pantomime
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pablo Picasso, Arlequin a cheval, 1905,
[Fair Use] via WikiPaintings
It is not at all unusual to find wonderful photos and RPPCs (Real Photo Post Cards) of couples at Carnival, or fêtes, dressed as Pierrot and his ensemble. Sometimes, even whole families get into the act.

SOLD Pierrot plays the mandolin for his Colombine
SOLD Pierrot and family at a fête
Publishers of French postcards made successful use of Pierrot to create romantic, silly, and sometimes mysterious images to please the picture postcard buying public.

SOLD "Croissants de Lune"
We are so very fond of Pierrot, here at Red Poulaine, that he shares a section in our shop with another favorite of ours, Mignon. But, fair warning, when you find him in stock, if you are a collector, better grab him quickly, because he is a very popular character and, like the traveling players from whom he is descended, seldom stays long in one place.

SOLD  Pierrot hugging Colombine