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Commedia dell'Arte figurine

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Italy (probably Northern Italian, made)

  • Date:

    late 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (makers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Lead-glazed earthenware

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John James

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This figurine, probably produced in the second half of the 19th century, is one of a set representing various characters from the Italian knockabout comedy called the Commedia dell'Arte, or 'artistic comedy'. This was the popular improvised type of comedy which flourished in Italy from the 16th to the 18th centuries and had an impact on theatre throughout Europe, especially France. Commedia plays were acted along pre-arranged scenarios but relied on the performers' ability for improvisation and ensured their popularity with a mixture of slapstick comedy, acrobatic leaping and romantic interest. Various visiting Italian troupes performed in France in the 16th century where their type of theatre was called the Comédie-Italienne. By the 17th century, however, their plays were being performed largely in French, and by the 18th century Commedia dell'Arte was a recognised part of the French theatre.

This character may be the Comico, or comical character, who often wore brightly coloured clothes to stand apart from the rest of the characters and whose function was both as a member of the cast and a character who talked directly to the audience, interpreting the action.

Physical description

Ceramic figurine wearing a black mask, white ruff and cape, yellow and green striped belted jacket and trousers, and maroon shoes. He is standing with his right hand in his pocket and his left hand concealed by his white cape, against a green glazed brick 'column' on a raised base with a white circular surface and four integral feet. The base has a decorative band of moulded laurel leaves, two comedy masks and rococo style shells, highlighted in ochre paint.

Place of Origin

Italy (probably Northern Italian, made)


late 19th century (made)


Unknown (makers)

Materials and Techniques

Lead-glazed earthenware


Height: 20.0 cm, Width: 7.4 cm of base, Depth: 7.5 cm

Descriptive line

Figurine of a Commedia dell'Arte character, possibly Comico, lead-glazed earthenware, Northern Italian, late 19th century


Earthenware; Lead glaze


Moulding; Firing (heating); Painting; Glazing (coating)


Entertainment & Leisure; Figures & Decorative ceramics; Ceramics


Theatre and Performance Collection

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