Not currently on display at the V&A

Harlequin

Figurine
20th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This figurine was produced by the Meissen factory in the Dresden area of Germany, established in 1706 and famous for being the first European factory to discover the secret of producing hard-paste porcelain. Porcelain originated in China around the 7th century, but it wasn't until the early 18th century that a young chemist, Johann Frederick Bottger, managed to duplicate the recipe for white porcelain on the orders of Augustus, King of Poland, who established the Meissen factory.

The figurine represents Harlequin, a character 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 knockabout comedy, acrobatic leaping and romantic interest. During the 18th century the Meissen factory produced some very fine porcelain figures of Commedia dell'Arte characters modelled by Johann Kaendler, and this is in the tradition of those figures.

Object details

Categories
Object type
TitleHarlequin (generic title)
Materials and techniques
Glazed porcelain
Brief description
Polychrome glazed figurine of a Harlequin from the Commedia dell'arte, Meissen porcelain, 20th century
Physical description
Porcelain figure of Harlequin, seated on tree stump, leaning forward, his head turned to his right, holding a hat in front of him. He wears a multicoloured tunic and trousers, the tunic patterned all over in triangles of green, grey, yellow and black, the trousers in triangles of red, black and yellow, both with gold trims, He has a white ruff edged in gold, and green shoes with rosettes of purple flowers, and has a black mask across the lower half of his face. The integral base is decorated with moulded flowers.
Dimensions
  • Height: 16.0cm
  • Maximum width width: 15.0cm
  • Of base width: 12.5cm
  • Of base height: 0.5cm
  • Of base depth: 7.0cm
Credit line
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996
Summary
This figurine was produced by the Meissen factory in the Dresden area of Germany, established in 1706 and famous for being the first European factory to discover the secret of producing hard-paste porcelain. Porcelain originated in China around the 7th century, but it wasn't until the early 18th century that a young chemist, Johann Frederick Bottger, managed to duplicate the recipe for white porcelain on the orders of Augustus, King of Poland, who established the Meissen factory.

The figurine represents Harlequin, a character 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 knockabout comedy, acrobatic leaping and romantic interest. During the 18th century the Meissen factory produced some very fine porcelain figures of Commedia dell'Arte characters modelled by Johann Kaendler, and this is in the tradition of those figures.
Collection
Accession number
S.969-1996

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest feedback

Record createdJanuary 12, 2006
Record URL
Download as: JSON