Beltrame di Milano
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Meissen Porcelain Manufactory
German, Meissen, about 1720
Hard-paste porcelain
H: 6 1/2 x W: 2 11/16 x D: 2 5/8 in.

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Characters from touring Italian theater groups known as the commedia dell'arte inspired sculptors at the Meissen porcelain manufactory from 1720 on. Beginning in the Renaissance, performances of various comedies by the professional actors' guild, or arte, had offered an entirely new form of entertainment, and this form of theater became increasingly popular in the 1700s. Commedia companies traveled and performed throughout Western Europe; actors entertained their audiences with music, dancing, and acrobatics combined with dramatic stories told with improvised dialogue. Theater-loving Europeans collected porcelain examples of their favorite characters from the commedia dell' arte, either singly or in groups, to ornament their dining tables and other areas of the home.

This figure represents Beltrame di Milano, a wistful blind character from one of the more popular comedies. His theatrical pose and gesture enliven the unpainted porcelain.