From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Pierrot is a stock character of mime and Commedia dell'Arte, a French variant of the Italian Pedrolino. His character is that of the sad clown, pining for love of Columbine, who inevitably breaks his heart and leaves him for Harlequin. He is usually depicted wearing a loose, white tunic. The noticeable feature of Pierrot's behaviour is his naïveté, he is seen as a fool, always the butt of pranks, yet nonetheless trusting. Pierrot is also portrayed as moonstruck, distant and oblivious to reality.
One may be said to be Pierroting if one is behaving like Pierrot.
Spelled "Pjerrot", the character is a fixture at Bakken, the world's oldest amusement park in Denmark. According to Bakken publicity, the character is more than 4,000 years old, and originated in Turkey. It is also claimed that in ancient times, the broad red mouth of the character was created by physically cutting the mouth to make it larger.
20th century Russian cabaret singer Alexander Vertinsky was famous for his portrayal of Pierrot, for which he wore a black costume and powdered his face.
Pierrot in poetry
- And lo, in that dawn he was pierroting over,
- Swinging in spirals round the fresh breasts of day.
From the posthumously published poem "The Moth That God Made Blind" by Hart Crane.
- The american poet Ralph Chaplin wrote a series of poems collectively titled "Maybe Pierrot", in which Pierrot is used to symbolize an idealistic artist unable to fight the world's injustices.
Pierrot in classical music
- The second part of the piano composition Carnaval written by Robert Schumann.
- Pierrot Lunaire ("Moonstruck Pierrot" or "Pierrot in the moonlight") is an important work of Arnold Schoenberg, a setting of Albert Giraud's work of French poems of the same name (translated into German by Erich Otto von Hartleben) to music.
- Die tote Stadt, an opera by Erich Korngold includes the aria Pierrot's Tanzlied (Mein Sehnen, mein wähnen) sung by the character Fritz.
- Pierrot, clarinet-violin-piano trio by Thea Musgrave in which the violin is Pierrot, the clarinet is Columbine, and the piano the harlequin.
Pierrot in popular culture
- Pierrot le Fou is a film by Jean-Luc Godard, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina. The anime series Cowboy Bebop features an episode titled "Pierrot le Fou", with a character called the Mad Pierrot.
- Yellow Magic Orchestra's debut album contains a track titled "Mad Pierrot".
- American filmmaker Kenneth Anger features Pierrot in his film Rabbit's Moon.
- David Bowie wore a Pierrot costume for both the sleeve of his album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and the video for the single "Ashes to Ashes". This in turn provided inspiration for a character in the TV series Ashes to Ashes.
- Leo Sayer dressed as Pierrot on tour following the release of his first album, Silverbird.
- The Japanese pop band Berryz Koubou's song "Kokuhaku no Funsui Hiroba" features the lyric "I am Pierrot" in reference to a girl who has just confessed her love and, having not yet received an answer, imagines the worse.
- Novembre, a progressive metal band from Italy, has a song called "Comme Pierrot" ("Like Pierrot") on the Novembrine Waltz album.
- Los Hermanos, a rock band from Brazil, has a song called "Pierrot" on the debut album, Los Hermanos.
- Brindis por Pierrot (Cheers for Pierrot) is an album of the Uruguayan songwriter/singer Jaime Ross.
- The song "The Carnival Is Over" by Australian band The Seekers features the lines "But the joys of love are fleeting / For Pierrot and Columbine."
- Indie rock band Placebo's album Meds contains a track called "Pierrot the Clown", including the lyrics "I'll be wallowing in sorrow/Wearing a frown, like Pierrot the clown".
- Rintaro's segment of the anime triptych Neo-Tokyo ("Labyrinth") features a somewhat sinister clown who resembles some representations of Pierrot.
- In the literary magazine The Savoy from the 1890s, a Beardsley drawing was often printed on the back cover featuring a mischievous pierrot in place of the traditional hero Bellerophon on the back of the winged horse Pegasus.
- Neil Gaiman's short story "Harlequin Valentine" features a Pierrot or "Petey" character.
- Pierrot was a Japanese rock band active from 1994-2006.
- Japanese musician Közi often wore a pierrot costume while a member of the visual rock band MALICE MIZER
- Argentinean band Sui Generis mentions Pierrot in their song "Gaby"
- "Like A Pierrot" is a unicycle challenge course on the popular Japanese show Unbeatable Banzuke. It should be noted that a word for clown in Japanese is "pierrot," and this Pierrot reference is more likely to a regular circus clown than a Commedia Del'Arte Pierrot figure.