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Picasso's Harlequin
Picasso's favorite alter ego is harlequin, a mysterious character who has long been associated with the god Mercury and Alchemy.

Harlequin's abilities to become invisible and travel to any part of the world at will and take on other forms, were said to have been magically bestowed on him by the god Mercury. It is also said that the secrets of Alchemy, were hidden in the Harlequinade.

Quatre Ghats CartoonHarlequin is also a familiar character in Punch and Judy puppet theatre. In the Barcelona, similar puppet shows had the characters, 'Christoforo' and 'Pulchinelli', who a popular feature of street life at the turn of century.

Picasso probably saw many such performances. He also is known to have assisted in some of Pére Romeu's famous puppet shows at Els Quatre Ghats.

He would probably also have witnessed enactments of harlequin's, "Triumph Over Death" in the annual street carnivals of Barcelona.

Picasso also concealed a number of harlequin forms in his most famous painting Guernica.

These hidden harlequins appear to be magically undermining the forces of death in the painting, and are therefore reminiscent of harlequin's Triumph Over Death.

Wine is one of harlequin's traditional accoutrements which he uses to seduce women.

Occasionally, Picasso's harlequin appears to do the same thing, as can be seen in the painting 'Au Lapin Agile', 1905.

Au Lapin AgileHarlequin and wine flask

Picasso's harlequin often appears as the father of an infant or yearning for fatherhood, a quality associated with the traditional harlequin, who has the ability to raise breast feed his own children, an alchemical analogy for guidance rendered to the initiate by Mercury.

Harlequin Feeding Baby

Picasso symbolically links two of these element and we see harlequin's wine equated with pregnancy as in the 1905 drawing, 'Circus Artist and Child. It shows a mother breast feeding her baby, a wine bottle at her feet is adapted into a baby's feeding bottle. In Picasso's symbolic frame of reference it is not simply a baby's bottle, nor a wine bottle. It is a double symbol for harlequin and Mercury.

Circus Artist and Child

In the Three Dancers and the 1934 drawing there is a further, astonishing interlinking of Picasso's wine and pregnancy symbolism.

JPG image (16 K) Quatre Ghats Cartoon
JPG image (19 K) Au Lapin Agile
JPG image (26 K) Harlequin and wine flask
JPG image (24 K) Harlequin feeding baby
JPG image (20 K) Circus Artist and Child
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