Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Harlequin as Painter
  • Giovanni Domenico Ferretti
    born: Florence, Italy
  • Harlequin as Painter, circa 1725–1750
  • Where object was made: Italy
  • oil on canvas
  • Canvas/Support: 33 x 48.2 cm
    Canvas/Support: 13 x 18 3/16 in
  • Gift of Samuel J. Bloomingdale
  • Not on display
  • 1958.0028
Label Text

At times somewhat misleadingly called “The Ridicule of Vanity” which suggests that the sitter to the painter might be vain, it is really the shameless over-confidence of Harlequin, his presumption that he can paint. Noteworthy is the richly painted and complicated still-life arrangement on the table on the left, made up of earthenware jugs and pots, some apparently containing paint and others holding brushes. Other jugs and vases are at the figure identified as Harlequin’s feet, one of which he has clumsily overturned, spilling its liquid contents. Also on the floor are a shallow dish and a trowel, certainly representing the tools used in laying the plaster for fresco painting, as well as a completely laid-out palette with brushes for oil painting. Harlequin himself, seated at left, precariously seated amid all this paraphernalia, holds a paint jar and a long brush with which he paints the portrait on the canvas on the easel (from which his cap is also hanging). The presumption of the silly and uncouth knave of Harlequin is suggested by his busy, twisting pose and even more in the ugly but funny caricature he paints of the really very pretty and elegant young lady who poses for him. Figure in mask beside the lady in pose. Doorway with figure leaning over a caldron on a fire.