Scene from the Italian Comedy (recto); Figure Study (verso)
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Claude Gillot
French, about 1700
Pen and black ink and reddish wash (recto); pen and black ink (verso)
6 5/16 x 8 1/2 in.

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Figures appear to stand on a stage, while a masked Harlequin, the commedia dell'arte's leading character, sits at a table and lures a fashionable young lady into prostitution. As the young woman holds the doctor's hand, a young man across the room stares with a displeased expression. Other commedia dell'arte characters, the merchant Pantaloon and Mezzetin in his floppy hat, lend Harlequin their support.

Claude Gillot made this drawing as a design for an engraving in a book about one of his favorite subjects, the commedia dell'arte, a popular entertainment born in Italy and later embraced by the French. In the book, Gabriel Huquier's Théâtre italien, the scene is identified as "Arlequin grapignant," or "Harlequin as Procurer."

The drawing is characteristic of commedia dell'arte's tendency to satirize human folly and pretense. Gillot's dashing, shorthand penwork and the luminous red wash imbue the drawing with a lightheartedness that conveys the comical mood of action onstage.

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Verso: Figure Study
Verso: Figure Study