The name Harlequin is taken from that of a mischievous “devil” or “demon” character in popular French passion plays. It originates with an Old French term herlequin, hellequin, first attested in the 11th century, by the chronistOrderic Vitalis, who recounts that he was pursued by a troop of demons when wandering on the coast of Normandy at night. These demons were led by a masked, club-wielding giant and they were known as familia herlequin(var. familia herlethingi). This medieval French version of the Germanic Wild Hunt, Mesnée d’Hellequin, has been connected to the English figure of Herla cyning (“host-king”; German Erlkönig).Hellequin was depicted a black-faced emissary of the devil, roaming the countryside with a group of demons chasing the damned souls of evil people to Hell. The physical appearance of Hellequin offers an explanation for the traditional colours of Harlequin’s red-and-black mask.
The first known appearance on stage of a Harlequin figure is dated to 1262, the character of a masked and hooded devil in Jeu da la Feuillière by Adam de la Halle, and it became a stock character in French passion plays. The name also appears as that of a devil, as Alichino, in Dante’s Inferno (cantos 21 to 23).
For this shot I used a common practice of street photographers. I chose a place with great light and interesting background and waited. I like architectural shots, but am happy when a living creature enters the scene. This lady is clearly elderly and normally I would not photograph her with no other compelling reason, but here she is completely anonymous and in my mind symbolizes old age with her stoop. I know at my age I look like this.
Without the lighting she would simply be another citizen on the sidewalk. I believe placing her here with the interesting lighting adds to her dignity.
This was shot with a long lens (300 mm; f5.6; 1/1000; ISO 640) looking down about 30 degrees from the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in Louisville, KY. There was a great shadow across the street late in the day. Around 5 pm people started leaving work and crossed the street. Fortunately for me they J-walked across the street right toward me and not at the traffic light. I shot several continuous frames hoping to get the lady just as she crossed into the sunlight. The contrast was so strong I thought a black and white conversion would work. I love the sunglasses. They protect her identity.