Large Faux Marble Carving of a Commedia Dell’Arte Figure
depicting a dwarf holding an open snuff box, the lid containing an erotic scene to the lid; decorated in faux marble and silver gilt. The figure comes in three parts, the head, the torso and the legs, revealing hidden compartments
Perhaps a snuff-dispenser in a gentleman’s club or a bordello, or even in some place which offered louche public entertainment, such as Vauxhall Gardens, the present sculpture was probably inspired by the engravings by Jacques Callot, from a series he drew depicting the troupe of grotesque dwarf entertainers known as Les Gobbi. This troupe performed in Italy for the Medici Court when Callot was working there recording court entertainments. Dwarves would have been regarded as amusing, and a troupe dancing and singing would have been a great novelty in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were also a popular subject for sculpture, and still remain in situ at the Villa Palagonia in Sicily and, more famously, the whole wall-full of them at the Villa Valmarana near Vicenza.