Series - Harlequins in Art

Anthology of the most beautiful modern and contemporary harlequins!

Antoine Watteau, “Mezzetin”, 1718.

Mezzetin is a comedy character. It is one of the varieties of Harlequin. Angelo Costantini, born in Verona around 1655 and died in 1730, had been hired in the old Italian troupe of Paris, to double the famous Dominique, who had acquired such great popularity in the role of Harlequin. To escape an overwhelming comparison, Costantini imagined renewing the use by making a Harlequin half adventurer, half valet, whom he called Mezzetin, to express this mixture.

Edgar Degas, “Yellow Harlequin”, 1884.

Edgar Degas, "Harlequin and Columbine", 1886.

Paul Cézanne, “Mardi Gras or Pierrot and Harlequin”, 1888.

This painting represents the artist's son Paul with his friend Louis Guillaume disguised as Pierrot and Harlequin for Mardi Gras in the workshop on rue du Val-de-Grâce. What is remarkable in this painting is to find the Cézanne "style" mainly in the background and the details. only by looking closely at the work and especially the faces that we discover all the modernity of the painter of Montagne Saint Victoire. Paul Durand-Ruel sold this work to collector Sergei Shchukin in 1904. It was confiscated by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution and transferred in 1918 to the Museum of New Western Art in Moscow. then in 1948 at the Hermitage.

Paul Cézanne, “Study for the Harlequin in Mardi Gras”, 1888.

Mardi Gras is a celebration that marks in apotheosis the end of the week of seven fat days formerly called carnal days (we like that term better). This period during which we celebrate precedes Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent. The festivities associated with carnival precede in the Christian tradition the entry into Lent during which the Christian eats “lean” by abstaining in particular from meat; hence the etymology of the word "carnival" which derives from the medieval Latin "carnelevare" meaning "to remove remove the flesh" i.e. "remove the meat" from the table from which she will remain absent throughout Lent.

Paul Cézanne, "Harlequin", 1890.

Edward Hopper, "Harlequin and Lady in Evening Dress", 1900.

For Picasso 1901 was marked by the death of his friend Carles Casagemas with whom he had shared a workshop and Parisian nights during his first stay. In his paintings Pablo Picasso introduces dark rings and flat areas of color the figure of Harlequin pensive and melancholy appears. Just like the blue that the death of his friend inspired in him and which step by step invades the web.

Pablo Picasso, “Au Lapin Agile”, 1905.

Pablo Picasso, “Harlequin”, 1915.

Juan Gris, “Harlequin on the guitar”, 1919.

Emil Nolde, "Dancer and Harlequin", 1920.

Pablo Picasso, “Paulo as Harlequin”, 1924.

André Derain, Harlequin and Pierrot, 1924.

My favorite Harlequin is a commission from the collector Paul Guillaume to André Derain who chose to represent two theater characters, from the Italian Comedia dell'arte: Harlequin in his colorful diamond costume, wearing a cocked hat and Pierrot in his white coat with collar. In this large canvas - 175 x 175 cm, from 1924, we recognize Paul Guillaume as Pierrot. I love the composition, still life, bottom right which is like a painting within a painting.

Jean Lurçat, “Harlequin”, 1925.

Miró, “The Harlequin Carnival”.

From 1924 Joan Miró rubs shoulders with the surrealists in Paris when he makes this painting he doesn't eat his fill. "I tried to translate the hallucinations that hunger produced. I did not paint what I saw in dreams but what hunger produced: a form of trance resembling what the orientals feel. "There is an automaton that plays the guitar a harlequin with big whiskers a bird with blue wings hatched from an egg a couple of cats playing with a ball of wool a flying fish an insect coming out of a die a ladder with a big ear and through a window a conical shape supposed to represent the Eiffel Tower. Miró does not take into account the real dimensions of the objects: "For me he writes a blade of grass is more important than a tree a small pebble than a mountain a little dragonfly is as important as an eagle.” You might think that all these elements are the result of chance but the sketches show that this apparent chance is the result of a precise composition which is contrary to the spirit of the surrealist painters. 

Gino Severini, “Serenade”, 1930.

Pablo Gargallo, "Harlequin on the flute", 1931.

Raoul Dufy, "Red and white harlequin on the violin", 1945.

Pablo Picasso, "The Three Musicians", 1921.
For Picasso, this work marks a return to bright colors after analytical cubism whose palette was limited to one or two dark and muted colors.
This painting represents the three characters from Commedia dell'arte: Pierrot plays the clarinet, Harlequin plays the violin, Capuchin holds scores. Under the table we can see a dog whose black shadow is quite difficult to perceive, on the left. This dog can be confused with the shadow of the table or that of people's legs. We see that there is no realistic light, it seems that everything is lit at the same time so that the objects and characters lack volume. The characters and objects are quite recognizable although they are composed of abstract elements. This work is an oil on canvas but it looks like a collage, the color shapes that construct the people and objects are like glued pieces of paper.
Jean Pougny, “Harlequin”, 1934.
Ivan Albertovitch Puni, known as Jean Pougny, was born in Kuokkala in 1894 in the province of Saint Petersburg (now Finland). At 15, he decided to devote himself to painting. A year later, he made his first stay in Paris, where he worked in various art academies; the young man discovered Fauvism, Cubism and Japanese art.
In 1912, returning to Saint Petersburg, Puni participated in several group exhibitions with Goncharova, Tatlin and Malevich. His workshop became a meeting place for the avant-garde. During a second trip to Paris (1914), Ivan Puni exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants. A leading figure of the Russian avant-garde, he organized the first futurist exhibitions. Immediately after the war, he went to Vitebsk at the invitation of Marc Chagall to teach at his Academy. The political situation forced him to flee his country and he took refuge in Berlin with his wife (the artist Xana Bogouslavskaya, married in 1913). He participated in several group exhibitions in Germany in the early 1920s, created sets and costumes for the theater, and gave conferences. In 1924, Puni moved to Paris and Frenchified his name, Ivan Puni would henceforth be Jean Pougny. His style changes and nothing remains of the cubofuturism and suprematism of the Russian years. He paints in the style of the Nabis (landscapes, interiors, scenes of Parisian life) while remaining fully original. He became friends with Fernand Léger, Marcoussis, Amédée Ozenfant. His works are part of the collections of major museums such as the Center Pompidou or the MoMA in NY.
Françoise Gilot, “Germaine as Harlequine”, 1956.
Obviously influenced by Pablo Picasso, whose life she shared from 1944 to 1953, Françoise Gilot also tackled the subject of Comedia dell'arte.
“Harlequin” by Severini.
When we look at Severini's return to the figurative and the evolution towards abstraction of his master in divisionism Giacomo Balla, we can only observe the relativity of artistic value... Severini created in the castle of Montegufoni, in Tuscany, at the request of its owner, a series of Harlequins. Severini's name is attached to the School of Italian Art that he founded in 1952 in Paris.
The book La Saga Maeght by Yoyo Maeght, with dedication. Link here