Joseph Grimaldi puppets

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Joseph Grimaldi puppets

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Arch One , Area 81
Brighton Beach (display)

Glamour of Brighton

Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) was England’s basis for Joey the Clown in Punch and Judy shows. He was the first modern clown, introducing the idea of the pantomime dame and the concept of the tragic-comic clown. Grimaldis style of clowning was influenced by the Italian Commedia dell Arte of the 16th century, reflecting the complexities of the modern era. Of his own name he punned 'I am grim all day - but I make you laugh at night!' His career began at the age of three at the Sadler's Wells Theatre, and his debut at Covent Garden was in 'Harlequin and Mother Goose; or the Golden Egg' in 1806. In 1812 he played Queen Ronabellyana in 'Harlequin and the Red Dwarf', and the Baroness in 'Harlequin and Cinderella', and one could argue that he began the slow transition from clown to pantomime dame. However, the 'Dame' was not to fully emerge until 1860-1880 with the emergence of the music hall stars. Joseph Grimaldi was forced to retire in 1823 at the age of 45 due to ill health and exhaustion. By 1828 he had become penniless, and a benefit performance was held at both Sadlers Wells and Covent Garden. These benefit performances proved to be of great help during his final years, which were spent by the fireplace of The Marquis of Cornwallis Tavern in Pentonville. To this day he is commemorated annually by clowns in the Holy Trinity church in Dalston, East London.

Grimaldi was famous as Harlequin in the pantomimes at Covent Garden Theatre Royal (now the Royal Opera House). This puppet (circa 1815) is made for a child - it is far too small for an adult’s hand.


Brief Biography of Joseph Grimaldi