Pierrot Laughing

Artist: Nadar (French, Paris 1820–1910 Paris)

Artist: Adrien Tournachon (French, 1825–1903)

Person in Photograph: Jean-Charles Deburau (French, 1829–1873)

Date: 1855

Medium: Gelatin-coated salted paper print (vernis-cuir)

Dimensions: 27.3 x 19.8 cm (10 3/4 x 7 13/16 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1998

Accession Number: 1998.57


We owe the contemporary image of Pierrot to the famous mime Jean-Gaspard Baptiste Duburau, who replaced the ruff and wide white hat of the commedia dell'arte character with the long blank face and black skull cap that we recognize today. Charles Duburau, his son and also a mime, was asked by Nadar and his brother Adrien to pose for a series of "têtes d'expression" that would serve as publicity for the brothers' struggling studio. The series was an enormous popular success.