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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 of the Doctor, 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.

The Doctor, or Dottore, was traditionally the pompous scholar from Bologna, an academic version of the greedy Pantalone. His speech was often filled with malapropisms and gibberish and he was dressed in black except for a white collar.

Physical description

Glazed figurine of a grey moustached Commedia dell'Arte character. He is wearing an elongated brimmed maroon hat, cream neck ruff, black doublet and hose, black cape lined in yellow, cream tights and maroon shoes. He is standing with his left hand on his waist, his right hand holding a roll of documents, in front of a pedestal on a base with four integral feet, decorated with two comedy masks and rococo style shell-like patterns and modelled details. The base has a decorative band of laurel leaves painted green.

Place of Origin

Italy (probably Northern Italian, made)


late 19th century (made)


Unknown (makers)

Materials and Techniques

Lead-glazed earthenware

Marks and inscriptions

A star followed by 'C.B.'


Height: 20.0 cm, Width: 9.1 cm, Depth: 8.6 cm, Height: 4.3 cm max of base

Descriptive line

Figurine of the Commedia dell'Arte character Dottore, 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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