Thursday, January 29, 2015

Historical Clown nesting doll set

This is a set of nesting dolls I made in 1993 by painting on a blank set.  The first Sunday in February, coming up in a few days, is the traditional time for a church service with clowns in some locations. While there is some "clowning", it is also a memorial service for clowns who have died the previous year. One service is held in Hackney, London.
The largest doll in this set represents Joseph Grimaldi,  Dec.18,1778- May 31, 1837, considered the godfather of clowns.  Offering comic relief during the Napoleonic Wars,  he expanded the role of "Clown" in English pantomimes and created a lot of the physical humour we associate with clowning. He satirized contemporary British life and made comic mockery of fashion absurdities - which sounds a lot like today's stand-up comics. It seems he may have invented the modern-day male haircut as well as a penchant for unusual hair colouring.
The next clown represents Jean-Gaspard Debureau ( 1796-1846) who took the traditional white-faced clown, Pierrot, from Comedie-Italienne to greater fame. A white-faced clown is a sad clown and Pierrot loses Columbine to Harlequin. Jean-Gaspard changed the usual tall white hat to a black skull-cap. He helped create a lot of interest in clowns in general and with Pierrot in particular with artists of the time - including Cezanne.
Coco is an English clown made famous by Nicolai Poliakoff (1900-1974). Coco was an "auguste" which is a type of clown who is supposed to be a bit stupid and always gets teased and has buckets of water thrown over him and custard pies slapped on his face. Coco had a serious side to his fooling around, however, and toured schools promoting road safety. That walking stick he carries is a Bolesha Beacon used at school crossings. He was awarded an OBE by the Queen for his work.
The next clown is Tom Eller as Harlequin. I believe he was an American clown and there is a poster of him that often appears on E-bay.  However, I have lost my notes as to why I selected him (hey it was 1993, I've forgotten!) - but he must have been in a book of clowns at the time. The colours are what his costume was - although we often think of Harlequin in brighter shades.
The smallest one is Lou Jacobs (jan1, 1903- Sept 13, 1992) the Famous American clown from Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey. He appeared with such well-known clowns as Emmett Kelly but later as an instructor at Clown College helped make the transition to modern clowning. An Auguste clown, he popularized the clown car and was originator of the rubber ball nose. He was also the first living person to have his portrait on an American stamp.

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