• Pulcinella Singing with His Many Children
  • c. 1725 - 1730
  • Alessandro Magnasco
  • Italian (Genoese School)
  • 1667-1749
  • Oil on canvas
  • Gift of Samuel H. Kress Foundation
  • CMA 1954.42

The Commedia dell’Arte (comedy of professional artists) was a popular form of improvisational theater that began in the 14th century and remained popular throughout the 18th century, particularly in Italy. The performances were based on a repertoire of established characters and story lines that highlighted a range of human weaknesses such as adultery, jealousy, love intrigues, tricking or outwitting a simpleton, or old age; these were often amended by traveling troupes to satirize local scandals and politics. In addition to being raucous entertainment, Commedia dell’Arte performances underscored the threat of vice – avarice, gluttony, promiscuity, vanity, etc. – and the honor of virtue. Magnasco has taken these figures off the stage and invented lives for them based on their personas as if they were real people.

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