Harlequin dolls c.1900
These small dolls represent the famous comic servant characters of Harlequin (Zanni) from the 17th century Italian masked comedy Commedia dell’arte.
We are proud to offer a unique surviving pair of Victorian straw work dolls from the 1900 period. These rare dolls most likely purchased as a theatrical souvenir during a Grand Tour. Harlequin of course always characterized by their masks, checkered clothing and carrying a ‘batte’ or ‘slapstick’ the tall magic wand that he waved to change the stage during the play. As the Harlequin character developed (made famous by Martinelli) and became popular throughout Europe during the 18th century he was seen in 18th century pantomime role paired with the Clown character (made famous by the English actor Joseph Grimaldi 1778 –1837).
These animated dolls were naively made as you would expect from peddlers selling their souvenir wares. However, the detailing is superb, and the natural silk and linen materials have survived superbly well. These little Harlequin dolls are wire framed which is wrapped in strips of straw plait and linen bodies. The wrapped limbs secured to a bespoke wooden base to help them stand. The Harlequins coat skirt woven in silk and linen material. Their heads are made from padded linen. His mask made of black bitumen over canvas has three silk stitches for his eyes and mouth.
We cannot find an identical harlequin doll pair like these; the closest we can find is a straw 18th century doll in The Met Museum and corn husk dolls at The Rochester Museum and Science Centre.
Dimensions in inches: H 11” x W 3” x D 3.5”
Material: Silk & Linen filled with straw and metal wire supported
These items are completely solid in structure and form, aged patina with weathering has taken place across all the surfaces. The silk cloth is torn in places due to age and the colour has faded. The linen has also faded across the surface, the glass eyes are missing unfortunately. The wooden bases are firm and solid in form, with discolouration as shown in the photos provided.
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