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Collection Connection: Maurice Sand
Timothy Chagolla Retzloff, Tobin Theatre Arts Fund Assistant Curator in the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts
What is a work of art in the McNay Collection that you have a connection to?
One work that I have a special connection to is Maurice Sand’s 1860 book Masques et Bouffons: Comedie Italienne (literally, Masks and Jesters: Italian Comedy). This book is a compilation of various stock characters found within the roughly 500-year-old Italian tradition of commedia dell’arte. Though beginning in Italy, commedia dell’arte flourished throughout many European countries and is still performed to this day throughout the world.
What is something you know about this work of art that others might learn from?
First is a just-for-fun fact. Did you know that the stock character Pantalone from this book appeared as a reproduction throughout several episodes of the 11-year Emmy-winning sitcom Frasier, particularly the episode High Holidays? (See below). Also, several of the characters on Frasier were modeled off the stock characters of commedia dell’arte, namely Frasier Crane (based on the character of Il Dottore, the doctor), and Martin Crane (based on the character of Pantalone, known for his trademark style of clothing).
Secondly, in addition to Maurice Sand working as an illustrator, he was also an entomologist. His scientific approach can be seen in his dissection of the many commedia characters as well as how he catalogued them. Typically, on the opposite page of the illustration is a description of each character and their specific characteristics.
What are you still curious about?
I’m curious as to what got Maurice Sand interested in commedia. Did he see a play? Did he read about it? And what attracted him to the many different characters?
Tell us a bit about you and what you do at the McNay.
My name is Timothy Chagolla Retzloff and I am the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund Assistant Curator in the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts. My primary responsibilities include research, assisting the Curator of the Tobin Collection in planning and executing exhibitions in the Theatre Arts Galleries, and engaging public outreach for the Tobin Collection.
What are you most looking forward to when the McNay reopens? Or what are you doing to exercise creativity during isolation?
I’m looking forward to seeing my colleagues again, in addition to the beautiful McNay grounds, and it goes without saying, the wonderful masterpieces in the galleries.
Image (top): Maurice Sand, Etching from Masques et Bouffons: Comedie Italienne, 1860. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin.
Image (bottom): “High Holidays.” Frasier, season 11, episode 11, CBS, December 9, 2003. David Hyde Pierce as Niles Crane and John Mahoney as Martin Crane.