"He looked like a harlequin"
Arlecchino and Colombina (18th century)
Public DomainArlecchino and Colombina (18th century) - Credit: Giovanni Domenico Ferretti
17th century Harlequin
Public Domain17th century Harlequin - Credit: Maurice Sand

The acrobatic, multi-colour-costumed Harlequin is best known as one of the zanni, or comic servant characters from the Italian Commedia dell'arte, and later of the Harlequinade.

He may have originated from the Hellequin figure of French passion plays, a black-faced emissary of the devil. Others suggest the name comes from Alichino, one of the devils in Hell mentioned in Dante's Inferno.