(click image to enlarge)
Charles Green was well known for his images of performers, including clowns at work in both theatres and circuses. The most famous of these is probably the watercolour generally known as Her First Bouquet: The Lane Family with the Clown George Lupino at the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton (1868, Private Collection), the Britannia Theatre in the East End of London being renowned for its spectacular pantomimes and melodramas. However, as Professor Jim Davis has pointed out, ‘if this is indeed a representation of the Britannia Theatre, then it most likely is Jean Louis who is depicted here’ as he was ‘The Clown in both the 1867-68 and 1868-9 pantomime’ (‘First Bouquets, Big Heads and Obstinate Horses: Illustrating the Victorian Pantomime’, Popular Entertainment Studies,
vol 3, issue 2, 2012, page 5).
Though the present watercolours were produced by Green in 1867, just a year before My First Bouquet, the clowns shown in them are of a very different ilk from Jean Louis (active 1853-75). They are provincial, and possibly travelling, players, who advertise their talents on an external platform at a fair, in the hope of attracting an audience to a more substantial performance inside their temporary theatre.
The engagement between the figures suggests close familiarity and even familial relationships, such as the father initiating his son into his own profession.