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Commedia dell'Arte Figures

Among the most distinctive areas of the Gardiner Museum’s collection are its famous group of 150 European porcelain figures inspired by the Commedia dell’Arte. The Commedia dell’Arte was a popular form of theatre that emerged in Europe during the Renaissance, and remained popular until well into the eighteenth century. The collection includes examples from most European porcelain manufactories showing the characters and costumes of the actors, their gestures and comic poses. These figures were usually utilized as ornaments for the table in the eighteenth century.

The origins of the collection are also of interest. It was initially assembled by George Gardiner as a memento of his directorship of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., publishers of popular novels. It has since been augmented by gifts from William and Molly Anne Macdonald and the heirs of Dr. Hans Syz.