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Harlequin is one of the oldest characters in the history of theatre, traceable back to ancient Rome and beyond, yet still alive and well, as any visitor to the Venice carnival will see. Of course, his character has changed somewhat from the lewd, satyr of classical times, through the buffoon Arlecchino of the Italian Comedy, the supposedly invisible sprite of the English Harlequinade in the 18th century, to the clown of more modern times.
Harlequin has often been used as a vehicle for illustrating emotions which would seem alien to his comical nature, notably in Picasso’s paintings of the Harlequin’s family.
In the Italian comedy he was dressed in a suit made of patches of coloured cloth, wore an ugly black mask, a small round hat and carried a cudgel. Later this outfit developed into the familiar suit of diamonds and cocked hat and Harlequin became a rather elegant athletic figure. This Harlequin, ‘The Fortune Teller’ is of this type, made from a solid wood figure inlaid with diamonds of different timbers. He was extremely difficult and laborious to make.
Harlequin The Fortune Teller, is reading his own fortune in the Tarot, and has selected four cards. He is looking anxiously at his first card which is the Fool, a reflection of himself, and the most mysterious, enthralling and disturbing card in the pack.
The figure is made of limewood, inlaid with 78 different types of wood, representing the 78 cards of the Tarot. The walnut base is painted on the four sides with more cards from the Marseilles Tarot, the most traditional pack, full of medieval iconography and Christian symbolism.
36 inches / 92 cm high
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