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Herman Rosse (1887-1965)
HIS IS one of a series of four paintings planned in 1934-1936 and
intended to form the mural decoration of a room with subjects
taken from the imaginary life of three of the characters of the Italian
Comedy: Pierrot, Pierrette, and Harlequin. Each painting was to be based
on a phase in these characters’ careers and presented as a scene in an
old-fashioned theatre, also of the imagination, not bound by the limits of
the real stage. Here Pierrot and Pierrette are acting their great scene of
devoted love and happiness, which is part and parcel of their idealistic
artists’ existence of poverty and bliss. Their child, Columbine, however,
hopes for better times to come and is trying to tell her luck in the future
by whirling a potato peel around her head, hoping that it will not break.
Pierrot and Pierrette have to work hard for a living and take no notice of
the wicked world around them.With reckless faith in their happiness they
take no heed of the world around them, depicted as a carnival where all
sins of mankind of which we read in our daily papers are portrayed and
which they have shut out merely by a flimsy fence of ground rows.
But danger to their happy married life is more threatened from the
other side; it is right around the curtain in the form of Harlequin, Pierrot’s
competitor for love and money at all times.The end of happy married life
may be near, for is not Harlequin the lineal descendant of Dionysius, the
God of the Theatre, and what chance would a mere mortal as Pierrot have
against his power and charm? Yet on the opposite side of the stage stands
Aphrodite, a goddess of even older lineage, to whom the theatre is likewise dedicated. Maybe her pity will protect Pierrot. Perhaps danger to his
happy love may still be avoided.The goddess of love is represented here
as the Venus of the Music Halls trying to reach her decision about the
fate of the lovers, which depends on her, by listlessly pulling the leaves off
a rose.Will she protect these devoted lovers, does this household merit
her protection against breaking up by the gay desires of ever-changing
Harlequin in his many-colored weeds, or should she favor once more
this one’s impetuous love?
Her servant Cupid already knows the answer. He is already pulling to
pieces the heart of flowers, symbolic floral decoration of their conjugal
happiness and old lovers’ memories and offers the flowers of love at
random. But be warned, all who would trust him, for he may change
his mood and shoot you through the heart with one of his never-failing
rose-colored arrows which leave their never-healing scar.
Herman Rosse
The gift of the children of Herman and Helena Rosse · Born in The Netherlands,
Herman Rosse lived principally in America. Among many other accomplishments,
he designed sets and costumes for stage and screen, won an Academy Award for
King of Jazz (1930), and designed the Tony Award medallion. An important archive
of Herman Rosse’s work is in the Chapin Library of Rare Books at Williams College.