Does the clown laugh too?
Since the early 90s, Lacrimosa has achieved a prominent position in the Gothic music scene. Black and white is the unmistakable feature of their album cover artworks. Some images have recurred more than once through the years, embodying the concise album titles of the duo. Their leitmotifs are manifold: portraits of the two musicians Tilo Wolff and Anne Nurmi, a sailing ship between rugged cliffs, seductive women in dark settings and, above all, an enigmatic clown.
This pointy-hatted buffoon first appeared, as a juggler, on the cover of the 1991 Lacrimosa debut album “Angst” (“Fear”); later he has played a pivotal role in many other artworks. Some of his features have stayed the same over time, and among them loneliness stands out.
For example, we can see the broody clown sitting in a boundless wasteland on the cover image of the 1992 record not surprisingly entitled “Einsamkeit” (“Solitude”). The scenario changes completely on the cover illustration of “Stille” (“Silence”), published five years later, even if the emotions inspired by the buffoon do not at all. His silhouette stands on a theatre stage in front of empty stalls, holding a violin and his bow… But has the audience already taken its leave? Or, on the contrary, hasn’t it come to see the show yet? Perhaps is the white-faced violinist purposely staring into alienating emptiness and silence? …
A clown’s intentions are not easy to understand, and his personality is a well-concealed mystery. However, one of his features is clear to see: he is literally made up of opposites. His own costume stands as evidence, and more hints referring to his duality are easy to find in the lyrics of the song “Kelch der Liebe” (“Chalice of Love”) from 2005 “Lichtgestalt” (“Creature of Light”). In fact, the clown calls himself with no hesitation «a shadowy creature of light» and «a shadowy creature of love», underlining full awareness of his own isolation through the self-referred adjectives «nameless, locked out and rejected».
Nevertheless, he doesn’t kneel unconditionally to his doom: even if he is resigning himself to other people’s impositions, the buffoon doesn’t give up following his idealistic search for love. Resolve is really a key-feature of this character, beaming from his eyes on the cover illustration of 2015 album “Hoffnung” (“Hope”) as from his proud posture standing on the cover-image of “Revolution” (2012).
The heart is the clown’s compass, as the lyrics of “Kelch der Liebe” state. He insists on his quest for love, although he himself acknowledges that «what remains is only longing». Duality comes to the surface again: resolve and disappointment dwell closely in the buffoon’s soul, and he carries within himself love and yearning as two sides of the same coin.
The clown embodies an endless struggle of opposites, which, just like light and shadow, cannot be divided: metaphorically speaking, he personifies the very concept of chiaroscuro.
His inner turmoil rages on invisible and silent, because feelings are often hard to express, even in his rare times relieved by soothing serenity. Silence is the mocking answer to the efforts of this tragicomic character, until the absence of words, both spoken and heard, becomes another fundamental characteristic. This implies a remarkable similarity between the clown of Lacrimosa and the mask character of the Commedia dell’Arte called Pierrot (from the original Italian name “Pedrolino”), who can be considered indeed as a real archetype of the clown himself.
In fact, also Pierrot, the sentimental and melancholic mime, gets its way of expression through the mystery of silence, although originally his mood was different and multi-faceted.
For example, during the seventeenth century Molière (pseudonym of Jean – Baptiste Poquelin, 1622 – 1673) and other playwrights imagined him to play roles such as peasant or servant, skilled in singing, and either cunning or fool.
At the end of the seventeenth century, Pierrot enjoyed great appreciation in French theatres, where the main characteristics of his costume were a large white jacket, trousers and shoes of the same colour, a sash tied around his head. The painting “Pierrot” (1718 – 1719) by the French artist Jean – Antoine Watteau (1684 – 1721) portrays exactly this unique outward appearance, but it also points out signs of the character’s inner change. In fact, the Pierrot by Watteau looks neither smart nor foolish: he rather shows a quiet, moony melancholy.
During the eighteenth century, Pierrot‘s self-seclusion into introspection and alienation deepened: this character ended up dumb, reaching simultaneously his artistic climax as a mime, and finding in silence the only means for seeking his own soulful definition.
In the nineteenth century, the French actor Jean-Gaspard Debureau (1796 – 1846) perfected the new speechless expressiveness of Pierrot, whose costume had partially changed: a black cap had taken the place of the sash, and the white jacket had been embellished with large black buttons.
These features have remained almost the same until today, and they may have inspired Lacrimosa with the appearance of their buffoon, because the clown of the music duo embodies Pierrot‘s heritage both in appearance and in spirit.
Has the mime left the clown his secret hope that someone among the audience may one day solve the mystery behind his alienating silence? … Before the curtain falls, there will be time to find it out. So let the show begin…