Pierrot in Criminal Court

Pierrot in Criminal Court

c. 1864-1870

Thomas Couture

(French, 1815-1879)

Oil on wood panel

Framed: 45.8 x 52.1 x 5.2 cm (18 1/16 x 20 1/2 x 2 1/16 in.); Unframed: 32.2 x 39.2 cm (12 11/16 x 15 7/16 in.)

Bequest of Noah L. Butkin 1980.250



In this painting, Couture used two famous masked characters, Pierrot and Harlequin, to satirize and critique the public and the judicial system of the 19th century. The pathetic Pierrot represents a lower-class fool on trial for stealing food from a restaurant. The stolen items are depicted lying on the courtroom floor as an indictment of his guilt. His accusers sit on the left, while Harlequin, his lawyer, argues theatrically for the defense. The artist's contempt for the legal profession and the court system is plain in the figures of the sleeping judges. A mid-19th-century observer may have sympathized with Pierrot, who for his own survival cunningly subverts authority in order to satisfy his needs.

See also

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance information, is based on historic information and may not be currently accurate or complete. Research on objects is an ongoing process, but the information about this object may not reflect the most current information available to CMA. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@clevelandart.org.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

Is something not working on this page? Please email help.website@clevelandart.org.

Request a digital file from Image Services that is not available through CC0, a detail image, or any image with a color bar. If you have questions about requesting an image, please email imageservices@clevelandart.org.