The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Mezzetino (Mezzetin)
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Mezzetino (Mezzetin)
  • France
  • probably c. 1700 - 1725 (model and cast)
  • Statuette
  • Bronze. Bronze and gilt-bronze base
  • Height: 50.2 cm
  • S234
  • Small Drawing Room
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • The floppy hat, tight-fitting tunic and breeches worn by this figure playing the guitar are characteristic of various figures of servants appearing in the Commedia dell’Arte a form of improvisational theatre invented in Italy during the Renaissance and extremely popular in eighteenth-century France. In particular, our figure is usually identified as the rival of Arlequin, Mezzetin (half-measure).

    Mezzetin is usually represented by the Commedia dell’Arte as the sentimental lover, as the lovelorn attitude of our sculpture clearly suggests. The presence of the monkey at his feet also relates to his characterisation, as it was a known symbol of lust.

    Although characters from the Commedia dell’Arte appear very frequently in fête galante paintings of the time (see the numerous works of the genre in this room, such as Watteau’s Arlequin and Columbine, P387 or Lancret’s A Gallant Conversation, P422), sculptural representations of such characters are extremely rare.

    Only one other version of this model survives, although another variant paired with a figure of Columbine is documented in eighteenth-century sale catalogues. The posthumous inventory of the sculptor Corneille van Clève (1645–1732) listed bronze figures of Mezzetin and Pierrot and a bronze ‘Guitar player’ was exhibited at the Salon in 1704 by Jean Poultier (1653–1719).