Clowns have always been a part of many cultures, and the art of clowning has existed for many centuries.Â Although clowns in the past, were usually found in the courts of kings and queens ( I imagine everybody needed a laugh from the important matters of state that were part of daily court life) clowns can be traced as far back as the courts of Pharoah.Â A pygmy clown performed as a jester in the court of Pharaoh Dadkeri-Assi during Egyptâs Fifth Dynasty about 2500 B.C. Â and court jesters have performed in China since 1818 B.C.
When the Spanish Conqueror, Cortez , conquered the Aztecs in what is now the state of Mexico, Cortez was surprised to discover clowns in the court of Montezuma.Â It is said that dwarf clowns, and hunchbacked buffoons were among the âwondersâ that Cortez took back to Europe and presented to Pope Clement VII. However, these clowns and other clowns of that time period, with their outrageous dress and crazy antics and influence in royal courts, varied from the clowns we know today.
Our modern day clowns can give credit to Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) who elevated the art of clowning to a theatrical fine art.Â He is credited for moving away from the harlequin type of clown of that day and was the first to use whiteface in his performances.Â A superb and engaging entertainer, he developed elaborate tricks and special effects.Â Around 1874, two entertainers James McIntyre and Tom Heath developed the tramp characterization with which most people are familiar with.Â Although, there is controversy over the exact origins of the tramp clown some say they represented Â the traveling "hoe boys," or itinerant farm workers, who rode the rails from one town to another, often in rag tag clothing and covered with soot. They were known as hoe boys (or hobos).Â Famous clowns among this type of character are Emmett Kelly Jr. as âWeary Willieâ the son of an equally famous clown Emmett Kelly Sr.
Emmett Kelly was a clown whose fame had become so notable, he was known as one of the worldâs most famous clowns.Â In 1972 Emmett Kelly, Jr., with help from his manager, established his own national circus.Â Â His circus was the only circus to perform at the White House, not just once but twiceâonce in 1972 and again in 1973 during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
Emmet Kelly, Jr.âs image and the image of other notable clowns are often available in prints, figurines and circus playbills and there is an active collecting community in this hugely popular genre.Â Companies such as Lladro, Murano Glass , Flambro and other porcelain companies sell clown and harlequin figurines and other items that range in price from several dollars to a couple of thousand. Whatever your wallet size may be, youâll be sure to find a clown figurine suitable to your pocketbook and budget-- a memory of a clown or an event that made you laugh!