Not currently on display at the V&A

Commedia dell'Arte figurine

Figurine
late 19th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This figurine of Mezzetin, 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 to improvise 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.

Mezzetin was one of the stock characters of Commedia dell'Arte. His name meant 'half measure' and in accordance with his inconsistent character he could be a deceived or a deceiving husband, and could serve his master with devotion or take bribes and betray him. Although not one of the Commedia characters who became assimilated into British pantomime, he was well known in France in the 18th century and is the subject of a painting by Watteau dated 1718-1720.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Glazed porcelain
Brief Description
Figurine of the Commedia dell'Arte character Mezzetin, lead-glazed earthenware, Northern Italian, late 19th century
Physical Description
Glazed figurine of the Commedia dell'Arte character Mezzetin in a white belted tunic with green frogging, white trousers, purple shoes, light brown purse on purple belt, white neck ruff and soft white floppy hat. His right arm is held up at chest height, with his hand held to his chest, his left arm is down by his side. He stands on a base with four integral feet, decorated with two comedy masks and rococo style shell-like patterns and modelled details. The edge of base is decorated with green cross hatching, and patterns on the feet are hightlighted in green; other details are painted in ochre.
Dimensions
  • Approx height: 20.0cm
  • Of base depth: 8.4cm
  • Of base width: 9.4cm
Marks and Inscriptions
Maker's mark in ochre on edge of leg on base.
Credit line
Harry R. Beard Collection, given by Isobel Beard
Literary ReferenceCommedia dell'Arte
Summary
This figurine of Mezzetin, 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 to improvise 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.



Mezzetin was one of the stock characters of Commedia dell'Arte. His name meant 'half measure' and in accordance with his inconsistent character he could be a deceived or a deceiving husband, and could serve his master with devotion or take bribes and betray him. Although not one of the Commedia characters who became assimilated into British pantomime, he was well known in France in the 18th century and is the subject of a painting by Watteau dated 1718-1720.
Collection
Accession Number
S.890-1981

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record createdNovember 7, 2005
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