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Italian Pulcinella.
L'ivresse de Polichinelle (the Alcohol intoxication of Policinelle) by Joseph Faverot (1894)
French Polichinelle.

Pulcinella, Italian pronunciation: [pultʃiˈnɛlla]; often called Punch or Punchinello in English, Polichinelle in French, is a classical character that originated in the commedia dell'arte of the 17th century and became a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry.


His name, from Italian pulcino ('chick'), refers to his distinguishing feature: a long beaklike nose. According to another version, Pulcinella derived from the name of Puccio d'Aniello, a peasant of Acerra, who was portrayed in a famous picture attributed to Annibale Carracci, and indeed characterized by a long nose. It has also been suggested that the figure is a caricature of a sufferer of acromegaly.[1]


Always dressed in white with a black mask (hence conciliating the opposites of life and death), he stands out thanks to his peculiar voice, whose sharp and vibrant qualities produced with a tool called a swazzle contribute to the intense tempo of the show. Pulcinella often carries around macaroni and a wooden spoon. According to Pierre-Louis Duchartre, his traditional temperament is to be mean, vicious, and crafty and his main mode of defense is to pretend to be too stupid to know what's going on.


Many regional variants of Pulcinella were developed as the character diffused across Europe. In Germany, Pulcinella came to be known as Kasper. In the Netherlands he is known as Jan Klaassen. In Denmark he is Mester Jakel. Russian composer Igor Stravinsky composed two different ballets entitled Pulcinella and Petrushka, inspired by him. In Romania, he is Vasilache; in Hungary he is Vitéz László, and in France Polichinelle, while in the United Kingdom he inspired the character of Mister Punch of Punch and Judy.

Open secret[edit]

In various European languages, including at least Italian,[2] French,[3] and Spanish,[4] a "Pulcinella's secret" is an "open secret."

Pulcinella Awards mascot[edit]

Pulcinella is also the mascot of the Pulcinella Awards, annual awards for excellence in animation, presented at the Cartoons on the Bay Festival in Positano, Italy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UK | England | Derbyshire | Mr Punch's 'bad mood' syndrome". BBC News. 2006-09-05. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  2. ^ "pulcinella translation from Collins Unabridged Italian-English dictionary". www.collinsdictionary.com. Retrieved 2012-10-30. 
  3. ^ "polichinelle translation from Collins French-English dictionary". www.collinsdictionary.com. Retrieved 2012-10-30. 
  4. ^ "secreto de Polichinela translation from Collins Unabridged Spanish-English dictionary". www.collinsdictionary.com. Retrieved 2012-10-30. 

External links[edit]