Come and see! Puppetry in pictures. > Jan Klaassen

 Jan Klaassen and the devil, 19th centuryThe main character of the old Dutch folk puppet theatre. He has the large, red nose of a drunkard and wears a multicoloured suit. Little legs are sewn into the bottom of his jacket and he has wooden shoes on his feet. On his head he wears a pointed cap (mostly with the point hanging downward) with a tassel or a small bell on top. He first appeared in the second half of the seventeenth century. His ancestor is Pulcinella, whose beak-shaped nose he inherited. Until well into the nineteenth century, his voice sounded like Pulcinella’s, for up to that time the puppet player used a squeaky voice transformer – a pivetta in Italian – for Jan Klaassens’s voice.

Jan Klaassen is a real Amsterdam working-class boy, never at a loss for words and with a great sense of humour. He is a down-and-outer, but never seems to mind. Whoever wrongs him is sure to become the object of his mockery and get a flogging with his stick. He is not afraid of anything or anybody, except for his wife Katrijn. Most suitable for Jan Klaassen is a puppet theatre set up outdoors with the players using hand puppets. In the past, some Jan Klaassen players gave shows in rich people’s houses, especially at children’s birthday parties. The contemporary (2005) Jan Klaassen-player, Misha Kluft, has a fixed spot on Dam Square in Amsterdam.

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