The Comedy of the Cat, c. 1850

The Comedy of the Cat:, Behind the Curtain, 1850, The Victoria & Albert Museum
Stalking the Belle Époqu, by Joseph Crisalli: This print, also from the George Speaight Archive at the V&A, depicts the inside of a Punch and Judy fit-up as a performance is taking place. The Professor holds Mr. Punch in his right hand, as is proper, and Judy in his left. On the floor, by his side, a woman is breast-feeding. That’s not a standard feature of most fit-ups these days. Meanwhile, a young crying child sits at her side and another child is holding a couple of puppets, waiting to hand them to the puppeteer, who is most likely her father. The engraving is entitled “The Comedy of the Cat - Behind the Curtain.” Cats were sometimes employed in Punch & Judy Shows when a terrier was not available to play Dog Toby. This was, of course, before the animals took a puppet form, too. The engraving is from an original painting, “La Comédie du Chat. Derrière” by Jules David (1808-1892), (see below). The print dates to 1850.

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