Magic Lantern Witch, 1900

Because this photographic magic lantern slide has no caption, it is not clear whether it is an illustration to a particular story, or just a fun stand-alone image. Dating is also difficult, but the witch’s corset and the crude Georges Méliès-style prop suggests a date of about 1900. (For a previous post, illustrated by a coloured magic lantern slide of the Witch of Endor, see here).

As you can see, the witch stands at her ease on a crescent moon, while a clown dangles below. He stretches up his hand, imploring her help. She has a smiling face and her right arm raised, as if she is ready to cast a spell. Whether she is about to strike him down or raise him up we won’t know unless the story can be identified.

3 Responses to “Magic Lantern Witch, 1900”

  1. If you look up ‘Pierrot’ on Wikipedia, it will give you the information on the characters in this postcard. The Witch and Goddess links are easy to spot.

    I remembered the Pierrot and Lunar connections from my childhood in France.

  2. Thank you Sachem.

    You are undoubtedly right that it is Pierrot hanging from the moon, which is appropriate for his ‘moonstruck’ character in the Commedia dell’Arte. This would suggest that the ‘witch’ is Columbine, who always breaks his heart by leaving him for Harlequin. It is, nevertheless, a strange costume for Columbine, who is supposed to be a servant.

    Harlequin Halloween costumes were very popular in the late 19th/early 20th century (in the UK and the US) and it is often difficult to distinguish a Harlequin/clown hat (usually with three pom-poms down the front), from a standard party hat (one pom-pom at the top), from a decorated witch’s hat. I suspect part of the popularity of clown costumes was due to the fact that they were easily made. As commercial costumes became available around WWI clown costumes started going out of fashion.

    Given the popularity of Harlequin and witch costumes at Halloween in America in the period, it may not necessarily follow that if the clown here is Pierrot, that the witch is Columbina (although it is likely). That is, Pierrot may have been used as a costume (as Harlequin was), without introducing the whole cast of the Commedia dell’Arte.

    Red Witch

  3. [...] have said before the clown/Harlequin and witch costumes are sometimes difficult to tell apart, but I suspect there [...]

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