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Figure - Columbine or Harlequine
  • Columbine or Harlequine
    Russinger, Laurentius, born 1739 - died 1810
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Columbine or Harlequine

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Höchst (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1760 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Russinger, Laurentius, born 1739 - died 1810 (modeller)
    Höchst porcelain factory (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hard-paste porcelain painted with colours

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 2a, case CA1

The Italian comic theatre, or Commedia dell'Arte, became all the rage in Europe in the 18th century thanks to the performances of Italian travelling troupes of actors. The cast of stock characters would have been familiar to everyone, the most notorious being the mischievous and outrageously hilarious servant Harlequin. Columbine was the flirtatious lady's maid of Isabella, and was often paired with Harlequin, or portrayed playing the hurdy-gurdy or the mandolin. Her mask symbolises the 'hide and seek' element of courtship and love as played out on the stage. The Commedia dell’Arte figures produced at Höchst porcelain factory were, like those made at Fürstenberg, inspired by the engravings of Johann Jacob Wolrab produced in Nuremberg around 1720. This figure is dressed as the female counterpart of Harlequin with a diamond-patterned bodice and a multicoloured full skirt, referring to the popular practice of couples wearing matching costumes at balls or themed festivities at court. She may be Columbine, dressed for a masquerade, or Harlequine, a female version of Harlequin thought by some to be a character in her own right.

The Höchst porcelain factory was founded in 1746, making it the third in the German Reich following on from Meissen in 1710 and Vienna in 1718. It was established by a successful merchant Johann Christoph Göltz and his son-in-law Felician Clarus with the help of a talented porcelain painter Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck. Von Löwenfinck had been trained at Meissen and escaped (we are told on a stolen horse) from the city with difficulty as the workers were closely guarded in order to prevent industrial espionage. Porcelain was so fashionable and desirable at the time that the Meissen factory was fiercely protective of the secrets of porcelain manufacture which had proved so prestigious and lucrative for its owner, the King of Saxony. It was only when the chemist Johann Jacob Ringler (another escapee from Meissen) arrived at the factory in 1750 however, that porcelain started to be made at Höchst. Prior to that date only faience was produced.

A wide range of Commedia dell'Arte figures were produced at Höchst in porcelain from 1750 to about 1765, reflecting the popularity of this form of theatre. After that time the fashion at Höchst waned and no more models of this type seem to have been made.

Physical description

Figure of Columbine or Harlequine in hard-paste porcelain painted with colours. She has a mask in one hand and a fan in the other. Her skirt is striped in purple, green, yellow, red and blue and she wears a chequered bodice. Scroll base.

Place of Origin

Höchst (made)


ca. 1760 (made)


Russinger, Laurentius, born 1739 - died 1810 (modeller)
Höchst porcelain factory (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Hard-paste porcelain painted with colours

Marks and inscriptions

A wheel
In purple


Height: 8.9 cm

Object history note

In the 2001 Stuttgart exhibition catalogue (see reference below), Horst Reber gives an account of the production of Italian comedy figures at Höchst . There is a short essay, translated by Sebastian Kuhn, in the English summary within the slip cover of the main catalogue from which the following information is taken.

During the first fifteen years of porcelain production (1750-65) a wide range of Commedia dell'arte figures were produced, reflecting the popularity of the theatre during this period. The earliest of around 1750, were by Johann Gottfried Becker who had trained under Kaendler at Meissen. Another group datable to about 1752 were by Johann Christoph Ludwig von Lücke. He had also trained at Meissen, but had also worked at Vienna and his models, raised on pedestals, appear to relate to garden statues which once stood in the gardens of the Schönbron Palace in Vienna. (These had been engraved by Salomon Kleiner in 1727, see illustration 3, main catalogue, p.141.). A few rare figures are also attributable on stylistic grounds to Simon Feilner, who worked at Höchst until 1753. From 1757-1759 production all but ceased at the factory due to its 'financial collapse'. The new director, Maass, appointed in 1759, encouraged the new young modeller Laurentius Russinger, then aged 20. He produced a series of so-called 'French Comedy' figures, catalogue nos. 155-161 which have very recognisable facial features, are relatively large (14cm high) and stand on pierced scroll bases. Russinger was apparently influenced by the Lück brothers in his work and it is believed that Johann Friedrich and Karl Gottlob Lück spent a short time at the Höchst factory in 1758. Russinger also produced a few smaller figures, of which this miniature figure of Columbine is one. Two further cavaliers in the same group were in the Jourdan collection. All have chequered costumes which are the main way they can be linked to the Italian Comedy: 'Only the decoration identifies them as Comedy figures: if they were decorated differently or had other attributes they would have an alternative meaning. The modeller at his work, therefore, was not so much thinking about the theatre as wanting to create a pleasing figure in the style of the period, and so he left the particular characteristics up to the painter.' Johann Peter Melchior was responsible for figure production from 1765-1779 and only a very few of his early figures can be linked to the Italian Comedy. As the final quarter of the 18th century dawned, fashion had moved on, and Italian Comedy figures were apparently no longer in demand.

In the 2001 Gardiner museum publication and exhibition catalogue by Meredith Chilton (see reference below) the two female figures of Columbine and Harlequine are deemed to be distinct from one another. Harlequine appears in many painted and engraved images from the end of the seventeenth century. She is always dressed as a female version of Harlequin with diamond shapes sewn all over her bodice and sometimes her long skirt as well (although this is sometimes chequered). 'Porcelain sculptures decorated with this costume are identified here as Harlequine, though this distinction was not made by porcelain modellers in the eighteenth century. Kändler, for example, simply refers to female comedians or masqueraders as 'lady', 'woman', or 'girl' in the records of his models. Usually only goddesses, nurses, and religious women are named.'...'Female equivalents of other male commedia characters are sometimes found in porcelain and in engravings, but almost never in surviving plays and scenarios. It may be that these characters appeared only at masquerades and during court festivities when costumes were worn.'

Descriptive line

Figure of Columbine or Harlequine in hard-paste porcelain painted with colours, modelled by Laurentius Russinger, Höchst porcelain factory, Höchst, ca. 1760.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Jansen, Reinhard, ed. Commedia Dell'Arte, Fest der Komödianten, Keramische Kostbarkeiten aus den Museen der Welt Stuttgart: Arnoldsche, 2001, Cat. 162, p. 155.
Chilton, Meredith. Harlequin Unmasked: The George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art with Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2001. ISBN 0300090099. Publication on the occasion of the exhibition, includes exhibition catalogue. For an account of the Commedia characters of Columbine and Harlequine, see pp. 65-74.


Hard paste porcelain



Subjects depicted

Scroll; Woman


Ceramics; Porcelain


Ceramics Collection

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