A Scarce Early/Mid-20thC Clowns Travelling Make-Up Compendium; Vernon.W.Jackson

Origin: English
Period: Early / Mid 20thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1925-40
Width: 13.5”
Height: 6”
Depth: 6.5”

The very rarely seen black tole-ware traveling clowns make up compendium with working key and lock, having a hand painted name of Vernon W. Jackson to the top in ruby red, with two carrying handles, opening to reveal a mirrored lid over two compartments, the top half lifting out, containing a myriad of clowns make-up largely in the form of many coloured cylindrical crayons, mirrors and powder puffs, and props such as hair attachments, earrings, teeth and eye lashes and the iconic red nose, the whole surviving from the second quarter of the twentieth century.

The condition of the case is simply well travelled with expected knocks and associated wear and tear with no losses. The mirror is detached so it could be re-fixed to the inner lid. The contents varies in age from the mid 1920s through to the 60s.

The make-up is largely made by Leichner (1910-1945) who were the best at the time and produded theatrical makeup for early stage & silent screen actors, also helping to further date the compendium as a whole. Once Leichner had perfected his formula for making grease paint makeup for himself, he developed additional ones that he sold to his fellow stage performers. He and his wife started to make his stage makeup products at home in their kitchen around 1870. As news of his new grease makeup products spread by word of mouth, he received more and more orders for his makeup, as a result, his part time side business become very profitable and he decided to establish a full-time professional business establishment for the making of his theatrical makeup products. Much of the early make up in this tin are inherently valuable themselves, dating to the 1920s, they can be seen online at around £50 per piece.

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. Makeup for a clown has many uses. It helps expand or exaggerate the facial expressions which is important in a large venue such as a circus. It cues the audience that this person is a larger-than-life, cartoon-like figure, and helps the crowd accept them as someone who encourages playfulness, humour and fun (if the makeup is executed well. Some use makeup as a mask to create a parody of a certain kind of face or attitude, someone vain, or absurd.

In terms of approaching the application of the clowns make up there are a few methods; the first is to enhance is to accent certain parts of the face with line and colour, usually around the more mobile areas such as the eyes, the eyebrows and the mouth, to enhance their expressiveness. The make-up is blended and softened, the lines between the colours less stark; this look is closer to stage make-up with strong accents. The other option is to have a fixed look and decide on a particular expression and create a fixed look on the face. Paint on a smile or frown, draw the eyebrows high up on the forehead so the clown always looks surprised or confused. A painted-on smile makes it easy for a clown to always look happy, and when they really smile, it exaggerates it. Or if they frown, the painted smile creates a contrast between the mobile, frowning face, and the fixed, happy mask. One can also use an ornate approach aka Glitter Clown which tends to feature drawn on stars, flowers, rainbows, curlicues, glued on glitter or rhinestones, lines and shapes that have no relation to facial expression. This style is mostly decorative. It’s not often used in clowning outside the circus ring or in fashion shows, though it can be used if what a player is aiming to express is a vain, flashy, pretentious clown. The disadvantage is that it can get in the way of reading the clown’s expressions.

Nigh on ever seen on the open market, this is a fascinating compendium that evokes all it is to be a professional clown.