Oh, to be in love, and with yourself, no less. This exquisite 18th century porcelain figurine by the preeminent Meissen porcelain modelleur, Johann Joachim Kändler (1707-1775) depicts a member of a commedia dell’arte comedy troupe in the guise of an innamorata, a character in love with another character, as well as himself. Begun in 16th century Italy, commedia dell’arte was responsible for the advent of improvised performances based on sketches; in short, sketch comedy. According to Italian historians, this “comedy of craft” rose as a response to the political and economic crisis of the time in Italy, and as a consequence, became the first professional form of theater. The performers played outside on temporary stages, playing a variety of social “types.” The three main stock roles were “the servants (zanni), the masters or elders (almost always old men hence their Italian name, the vecchi) and the lovers (innamorati),” the latter of which is depicted here.
This exquisitely-painted jovial lover is marked by a wide, preening smile and numerous beauty marks spreading across a face framed by a flamboyant hat. Also take note of his extravagant pants featuring finely detailed playing cards, perhaps referring to his profession as a “player” upon the stage. Johann Joachim (J.J.) Kändler, whose work can be seen in museums around the world, was best known for such figures of Italian Comedy, which gave “a more evocative sense of this form of theatre than most illustrations.” The classic commedia plot is that of innamorati who wish to marry against the wishes of vecchi, and eventually with the help of zanni, end up doing so, but the conventional plot was simply background for the performers, who the audiences really came to see. Through arch and expressive performances, as indicated in this figurine’s stance, this craft was elevated to art. To learn more about this piece, contact Alexander’s Antiques.