Harlequin costume

  • Gift of the Société de l’Histoire du Costume
  • First half or middle 18th century
  • Jacket, trousers: dark blue, red, green and yellow woollen fabric; plain linen underlay. Wooden buttons covered with fabric. Mask: brown leather. Beard: brown horsehair
  • GAL 1920.1.1791a-e
  • Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

The costume is made up of triangles of fabric overlaid on tough linen. The short jacket has a round neck edged with small triangles of fabric, while the wrists are inturned and slit. The trousers are close-fitting. The quality of the workmanship and the solidity of the seams bespeak garments meant for intensive use, and this is borne out by the traces of wear, especially on the inside of the vest. The leather mask has a wart on the forehead, one of Harlequin's distinctive attributes.

Probably the best-known character of all in the Italian comic tradition, Harlequin belongs to the category of servants combining roguishness and good nature, mockery and wit. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries his costume resembled this one: jacket and trousers made of blue, red, yellow and green triangles, a mask, a little hat and flat shoes. The original owner of this costume may have belonged to a travelling troupe or been one of the Italian actors at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, on Rue Mauconseil in Paris, before their departure in 1779. As far as is known, this is the only 18th-century Harlequin theatre costume in France's public collections.

Notice's author : Pascale Gorguet-Ballesteros