Ceramic figurine of the Commedia dell'Arte character Pantaloon with a grey beard. He wears a tan doublet and hose and a black cape with the lining painted gold. He stands with his right foot forward and his left leg back with a slightly bent left knee, his right hand rests on his right hip. He stands on a base with four integral feet, decorated with two comedy masks and rococo style shell-like patterns and modelled details. Base has a decorative band of laurel leaves painted green.
This figurine of Pantaloon, probably produced in the second half of the 19th century, is one of a set representing various characters from the Italian knockabout comedy called the Commedia dell'Arte, or 'artistic comedy'. This was the popular improvised type of comedy which flourished in Italy from the 16th to the 18th centuries and had an impact on theatre throughout Europe, especially France. Commedia plays were acted along pre-arranged scenarios but relied on the performers' ability for improvisation and ensured their popularity with a mixture of knockabout comedy, acrobatic leaping and romantic interest. Various visiting Italian troupes performed in France in the 16th century where their type of theatre was called the Comédie-Italienne. By the 17th century however their plays were being performed largely in French, and by the 18th century Commedia dell'Arte was a recognised part of the French theatre.
Pantaloon was a stock character of Commedia dell'Arte who became an established part of British pantomime in the 18th century, along with Harlequin and Columbine. Pantalone was originally the rich and greedy Venetian merchant, old but athletic, whose greatest concern was his money, a perfect foil for the impecunious Arlecchino, or Harlequin. In British pantomime he was usually represented as Columbine's father.