The Neapolitan mask of Pulcinella: when and how it is born
History of “Pulcinella”, the traditional Neapolitan mask, where does it come from? How was it born?
we would like to tell you the most popular Partenopean mask. It celebrates the funny side of life and all the positive feelings belonging to the Partenopean culture. Together with pizza, Pulcinella represents the soul and the history of Naples, but when was it born? Let’s find it out!
Since ancient times, the mask represented different folkloric attitudes; for example, during the Early Christian age, it was symbol of the natural forces, as well as of the animal and dead world. But in the late Middle Ages it was used both to exorcise hierarcical figures and to get a poetical function, especially in the courts.
In Naples, “Pulcinella” mask has got very old origins. It appeared for the very first time in 1300, when its name stood for “little chick” and was used to indicate an idler and timewaster person. Then, its origins were attribuited to Silvio Fiorillo, a dramatist of 1500 who, during its performances, used to wear a kind of mask completely different from the one we know today; it is, in fact, a typical “mid mask”, also called “lupo” with a big bent nose, a face full of wrinkles and very small eyes.
These particular characteristics, together with a shrill voice, make the mask more similar to a black grouse, from which the word “polleciniello” (in Neapolitan dialect) comes from.
The ancient proverbs are always reflected in reality.
Proverbio di Pulcinella
The secret of Pulcinella
As all the Neapolitans know, Pulcinella represents the simple man who tries to face all his problems with a smile. He is always in contraddiction with himself, making fun of the mighty ones and being clever. As a matter of fact, it’s hard for him to be quiet: that’s why there is the expression “Il segreto di Pulcinella” (“Pulcinella’s secret”), to indicate a fact that everybody know.
One of the most representative “creators” of Pulcinella, is the Neapolitan artist Lello Esposito, famous for his works all over the world. So, when you are in Naples don't miss the opportunity to have fun and meet many Pulcinella around the city, a picture with the most popular mask of the city is a beautiful postcard.