Improvisational comedy, masked comedy, comedy of craft – all of these names reflect different aspects of the commedia dell’arte tradition, which emerged in the mid-16th century. On the one hand, its roots can be found in the carnival and fairground atmosphere; on the other, they can be found in the hobby acting of the educated society, which was familiar with ancient and Humanist authors.
The French artist Jacques Callot (1592–1635) is considered one of the most significant recorders of the commedia dell’arte tradition. The artist’s first depictions of commedia dell’arte masks were completed in 1615; a more extensive series was made after his trip to Florence, the heart of the active theatre region of Tuscany. Callot’s best-known and most complete series of prints is Balli di Sfessania (Dances of Sfessania, 1622, 24 prints), which wonderfully captures the liveliness and acrobatics of commedia dell’arte characters from Naples and southern Italy.
Boris Ivanov (1968) is a sculptor who prefers abstract sculpting and painting techniques; he has been inspired by Callot’s series of etchings to create three-dimensional objects of its characters. The attention to detail and delicate finishing imitate the intricacy of the engravings and convey the forceful dynamics of commedia dell’arte.
Engravings: Jacques Callot (1592–1635). Balli di Sfessania (Dances of Sfessania). Art Museum of Estonia
Sculptures: Boris Ivanov. Balli di Sfessania. Bog oak. Artist’s private collection
Exhibition curator: Kerttu Männiste
Exhibition designer: Maret Kukkur
Graphic designer: Kätlin Tischler
We thank: the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the VAT Theatre and the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum
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Kadriorg Art Museum
Weizenbergi 37, Tallinn