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From saint to trousers

Pantalone, by Maurice Sand, 1550

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.Shakespeare, As You Like It

Venice played a key role in the origins and evolution of the Commedia dell'Arte, and produced one of its best-known stock characters; when Shakespeare's Jacques spoke of the seven ages of man, the 'pantaloon' was instantly recognizable.

Although his origins stretch back to antiquity, to the elderly god of the old year or of winter who dies in Carnival, Pantalone (or Pantaleone or Pantaloon) was named after the popular Venetian healing saint San Pantalon. Dressed in the traditional Venetian style all in red, with a woollen cap, black cape and Turkish slippers, his character or mask was that of an avaricious old merchant.

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History and Anecdotes

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by PD Art