Commedia dell’Arte Figures

Commedia dell’Arte Figures

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Among the most distinctive areas of the Gardiner Museum’s collection is its famous group of 150 European porcelain figures inspired by the Commedia dell’Arte. The Commedia dell’Arte was a popular form of theatre that emerged in Europe during the Renaissance and remained popular until well into the eighteenth century. The collection includes examples from most European porcelain manufactories showing the characters and costumes of the actors, their gestures, and comic poses. These figures were usually utilized as ornaments for the table in the eighteenth century.

The origin of the collection is also of interest. It was initially assembled by George Gardiner as a memento of his directorship of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., publishers of popular novels. It has since been augmented by gifts from William and Molly Anne Macdonald and the heirs of Dr. Hans Syz.

1. Scowling Harlequin (detail), Germany, Meissen, c.1738-40, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.907

2. Scowling Harlequin (detail), Germany, Meissen, c.1738-40, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.907

3. Wall Vase (detail), Austria, Du Paquier, c.1730, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.1220

4. Sunflower Dish (detail), England, London, c.1755, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.1108.1-2

5. Ewer and Basin (detail), France, Sèvres, c.1758, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G84.1.2

6. The Monkey Orchestra (detail), Germany, Dresden, Meissen, c.1753-1775, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.675.1-.18

7. Sugar Box with Armorial (detail), Italy, Doccia, c.1745-1750, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.1105

8. Gardener with Watering Can (detail), Switzerland, Zurich, c.1770, The Hans Syz Collection, G96.5.421

9. Chocolate Pot (detail), Denmark, Copenhagen, c.1775, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.1104

10. Teapot (detail), Germany, Meissen, c.1730, decorated at Lauche, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.764

11. Exotic Bird (detail), England, London, St. Jame's Factory, c.1751-1754, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.1005