Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

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 Harlequin is one of a set representing 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.

Harlequin was the young lover of Columbine whose original patched suit of various fabrics developed into the familiar outfit of multi-coloured diamond shapes. In Italy Arlecchino was a quick-witted but unscrupulous servant; in France he was a pretty simpleton, a languishing lover and a romantic magician, but in England he became the star of 18th century pantomime.

Physical description

Glazed figurine of the Commedia dell'Arte character Harlequin. He wears a black mask, belted tunic and trousers decorated with yellow, tan and green triangular shapes, maroon shoes with gold buckles and a white hat with a green feather to the right side. He is leaning forward slightly with both hands on his hips, standing 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 'G.B.'
painted in tan paint


Height: 20.0 cm, Width: 9.0 cm, Depth: 7.5 cm maximum of base, Height: 4.3 cm of base

Descriptive line

Figurine of the Commedia dell'Arte character Harlequin, 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

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.