Meaning of Harlequin

In ancient French, Hellequin was the name given to a devil. This term passed to Italian as an arlecchino, and then to our language as a harlequin.

To understand what a harlequin is, one must first refer to the comedy of art, a theatrical modality that emerged in Italy in the middle of the 16th century. In this genre, Harlequin is a character who wears a mask and wears a colorful costume with diamonds. Together with Colombina and Brighella, he made up the group of servants.

By extension to the personality of this character, the grotesque subject, with the air of a jester, is known as a harlequin. The person who tends to ridicule and who avoids formalities can be considered as a harlequin.

The typical harlequin costume is derived from the rags of a beggar. From scraps of different garments, the original colorful costume of a harlequin was developed. Over the years, the harlequin suit became composed of brightly colored diamonds, with a preponderance of green and red.

As for the harlequin mask, it is a combination of the facial characteristics of a monkey and a cat. That is why the traditional harlequin’s nose is flattened and the eyes are rounded.

In the art world we find different representations of this figure that concerns us. However, among the best known worldwide is the painting entitled “Harlequin” that the great Malaga painter Pablo Picasso created and presented in 1917.

It is an oil painting that he gave to the city of Barcelona in 1919 and that, at present, can be admired in the Picasso Museum of the mentioned Catalan city.

No less important is that the harlequin is a figure that becomes a key part of a part of that artist’s professional career. Specifically, it is established that he is the protagonist of his so-called pink stage, since he uses it not only to represent himself but also to come to make clear the criticism he makes of the society of the moment.

In the same way, we cannot ignore that another of the most brilliant Spanish artists also painted this character in question. Specifically, it was Salvador Dalí who in 1926 presented a four titled “Arlequí” (Harlequin).

It is an oil on canvas in which the aforementioned genius comes to show his interest and passion for cubism. It is not perhaps one of his best-known works, but it has an undeniable value since it comes to show his quality and his know-how. At the moment, said painting is part of the collection of the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.

The harlequin ichthyosis, finally, is a rare disease that affects the skin. When a child is born with this disease, its appearance resembles the disguise of harlequins due to the scales that cover almost the entire body.


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