Exhibition: Harlequinade by Ellie Young

Exhibition: Harlequinade by Ellie Young

Harlequinade is a British comic theatrical genre, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “that part of a pantomime in which the harlequin and clown play the principal parts”. Jesters, clown and “fools” entertained at fairs, members of nobleman households and monarchs to entertain guests during the medial and Renaissance eras. “Fools” also appear in Shakespeare’s plays such as Feste pictured below from Twelfth Nigh.

It developed in England between the 17th and mid-19th centuries. A slapstick adaptation, a variant of the Commedia dell’arte, originating in Italy, reaching its pinnacle in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The story of the Harlequinade revolves around a comic incident in the lives of its five main characters: Harlequin, who loves Columbine; Columbine’s greedy father Pantaloon, who tries to separate the lovers in league with the mischievous Clown; and the servant, Pierrot, usually involving chaotic chase scenes with a policeman.

Included in the exhibition is an exploration of Monarchs and some aristocrats who maintained the medieval tradition of keeping a fool or jester as part of their household until well into the seventeenth century. Some jesters assumed the role as a profession, whereas others occupied the position because of a mental or physical impairment. Often much-loved servant at ceremonial functions.

This exhibition of opalotypes uses opal glass as the base to the images. The white glass enhances the porcelain white faces while the rest of the image falls into shadows. Simultaneously capturing bold, graphic qualities of the figures, their nuances of colour, the unique surface relief and tonality. 

The carbon transfer is a beautiful historic photographic processes which rely on the ability of potassium dichromate to harden gelatin when exposed to ultra violet light. The process was invented in 1855 by Louis Alphonse Poitevin. Poitevin produced monochrome prints made with carbon black pigment. This gave the process its name.

Opalotypes are printed on sheets of opaque, translucent white glass. Glover and Bold of Liverpool patented the process in 1857, it was also know as Opaltype and milk glass.  Early opalotypes were sometimes hand-tinted with colours to enhance their effect. 

These opalotypes are created using the 4 colour carbon transfer process. Each of the pigmented gelatine layers (Cyan Magenta Yellow Black know as K )are transferred one by one onto the glass after each layer has dried. A beautiful hand crafted unique images are created after days of work.

Gold Street Studio & Gallery. Trentham East, Victoria. Until 26 February 2023

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This article was written by

Ellie Young owns and runs Gold Street Studio & Gallery.

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