Jean Jansem and the Basel Carnival
The Basel Carnival, first documented in 1418, is one of the oldest and most important carnivals in Europe: Its organization and process are unique: It starts in the dark night, the Morgestraich, and takes place for four days in a city that stops to live at its own pace. In turn, the cliques, carnival groups, march according to themes previously set by the festival committee, In the city's bars, satire takes place, the outlet of a contained social and political life This organization, whose choice of cliques and themes each year offers Jean Jansem a unique range of masks, also allows him to access satires comparable to no other in Europe. What better subjects for a human comedy enthusiast:
In our work we find the themes of the 1990 cliques as well as the emblematic characters of the carnival:
- The "Harlekin" or Harlequin, in black and white, valet from the Comedia dell'arte, significant for the bicorne, the cape and its collar
- The "Waggis", with its yellow hair, a caricatured representation of a 19th century Alsatian peasant, a coarse character with an enormous nose and very colourful clothes
- and the Blätzlibajass, The clown with a thousand fabrics (Blätzli), Bajass is the Basel term designating the Italian clown (Bajazzo).
All walk in joy and are depicted with the striking vivid line so specific to the artist. Their attitudes are sublimated by the bright and saturated colours applied flat or by carefully chosen touches. Everything expresses with force the diversity of this unique carnival, which knows how to combine popular jubilation with a rigorous organization of its own.