Watteau, a scene from the Commedia dell'arte, c1710 engraving 275 x 199
Pierre Gringoire, Heures de Nostre dame, Paris 1525, the author as Christ taunted by Italian players
J.J.Schindler, The Human Fountain, Commedia dell'arte print, Augsberg c1729
Schluber, a scene from the Commedia dell'arte, Augsberg 1729
HARLEQUINADE , Harlequin in the Dumps, Mother Shipton (Single, Sotheby's 1988
TIEPOLO, Pulchinello, wash drawing on a gnocchi pot and looking sinister
CANALETTO, drawing of five commedia dell'Arte figures in front of an audience


An interesting visual proposition - a publically recognised cast of characters, with principals and secondaries, enacting stories known to all (since the mid sixteenth century) - yet allowing considerable (and expected) extemporisation on stage, or, if travelling players, on location. The principals. Harlequin and Pedrolino, were extensively referred to in the production of art, again tapping into public familiarity with their allotted roles. Above are various depictions of the Commedia figures together with a selection of plates from a Dutch portfolio of characteristic tableaux, including a scene of colonic irrigation.