The clown is a theme that Angelito Antonio has explored to the hilt as he made a venture or two under the circus tent. The clown is a difficult person to comprehend, the best loved figure in Italian Commedia dell’arte.
Merry, radiating the spirit of wit and comedy, his movements were as gay and capricious as a butterfly. Here, the clown provides for a humorous foil to the lovely woman. The Commedia provides an opportunity to tweak a traditional subject within a modern idiom, the artifice of late Cubism well-suited themes of disguise and masquerade. In his depiction of the timeless clown, Antonio has a lot of references in art history to look back to.
For Chagall, as for many other artists, including his contemporaries Picasso and Georges Rouault, the circus was a central metaphor; its clowns and acrobats hiding a range of different meanings and emotions behind their masks. Traditionally on the margins, playing a part or concealing sorrow, these figures embody both suffering and compassion. Chagall said “I have always looked upon clowns, acrobats, and actors as beings with a tragic humanity. For me they are like figures in certain religious pictures.”