For Wednesday Whimsy, I thought this charming group of French 1880’s trade cards would work well, since they’re mostly Pierrot and Harlequin costumes, with a few others added in and the majority of them are advertising French chocolates and bonbons. Trick or treat indeed!
I first encountered Pierrot in the movie “The Boy Friend,” actually, when Twiggy wore the female version of the costume and sang a very sad little song which is not my favorite in that movie. These trade cards offer much happier and even mischievous examples. Looking it up, I found out the character goes back to an Italian troupe of actors performing in Paris in the late 1600’s.
He was a trusting fool, in love with a girl named Columbine, who he usually loses to Harlequin. He was usually portrayed wearing a loose white costume with a ruff at the neck and a pointed cap or sometimes a black skullcap. He first appeared in a play by Moliere but was then adopted by many other authors and actors in the centuries since.
This character apparently had a wave of popularity in the 1880’s, which is the general time frame of these trade cards. By then mimes had adopted the white-painted face and some of the aspects of the character and the costume. It was also around this time that Pierette, the female version of Pierrot, began showing up, as a rival to the fickle Columbine.
Even the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt played Pierrot once.
“I studied and performed and even taught mime years ago.” Tom Bergeron (Who knew?)
And last but not least, the mischievous players get up to no good with the Jack-o-Lantern in the card below: