Snapshot of History: “Joseph Grimaldi Clown Extraordinaire”

Joseph Grimaldi as Clown Joey

Joseph Grimaldi as Clown Joey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#AceHistoryNews says Joseph Grimaldi (1778–1837) was an English actor, comedian, dancer, and the Regency era‘s most successful entertainer. He popularised and expanded the role of “Clown” in the harlequinade that formed a part of British pantomimes during the 1800s, and became a key pantomime performer at the Drury Lane, Sadler’s Wells and Covent Garden theatres. While a boy, he appeared on stage at Drury Lane as “Little Clown” in the pantomime The Triumph of Mirth; or, Harlequin‘s Wedding. Other successful roles at the theatre followed, but he left in 1806 to take up theatrical residencies at the Covent Garden and Sadler’s Wells theatres. As he matured, he began performing as Clown, for which character he created the white-face make-up design still used in pantomime and by many other clowns today. The numerous injuries he received as a result of his energetic performances eventually led to a decline in his health and to his semi-retirement in 1823.

Living in obscurity during his final years, he became an impoverished alcoholic.

Grimaldi died at home in Islington, aged 59, having outlived his wife and his actor son Joseph Samuel

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