An Early 20thC French Card & Softwood Pierrot Clown Pop Up c.1910-30

Origin: French
Period: 3rd Republic
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1910-25
Height: 22.5”
Width: 13”
Depth: 2”

The amusing and highly decorative printed pressed card and softwood pop up, modelled as two clowns, or Pierrots with typically brightly adorned face make up, pointed hats, shoes and costumes, the concealed clown popping up when the lower bullseye button marked ‘depose’ is pressed from a wooden mechanism, to a black line decorated backing with hanging cord, the whole surviving from the first quarter of twentieth century France.

The condition of the pop up would be described as well used and play worn but it hugely decorative and importantly still functions. The mechanism could perhaps do with some lubrication, but all the parts are present. The card is, as expected, frayed at the ends and bent in places as per the photographs. It is rather remarkable it has survived thus far and in working order. We cannot find another comparable example of this type having been sold.

London entertainer Joseph Grimaldi was said to have invented the modern clown in the early 1800s. Grimaldi performed physical comedy while wearing white face paint with red patches on his cheeks and bizarre colorful costumes. Around the same time in France, everyone was laughing at Jean-Gaspard Deburau's Pierrot, a clown character with a white face, black eyebrows and red lips — one of the first professional silent mimes. French literary critic Edmond de Congourt said in 1876 that "the clown's art is now rather terrifying and full of anxiety and apprehension, their suicidal feats, their monstrous gesticulations and frenzied mimicry reminding one of the courtyard of a lunatic asylum.”

Love or hate clowns this pair of fools delight even when stationary.