The Laughing Man

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The Laughing Man, 2021
A Mixed Media by Richard Sele

No editions of this artwork are available


The story behind this scratchboard piece is fascinating. It depicts the character Gwynplaine, played by German actor Conrad Veidt, from the 1928 silent film, "The Man Who Laughs," which is based on the 1869 Victor Hugo book of the same title. The character served as the inspiration for the Batman villain, the Joker, who first appeared in 1940. There are remarkable physical similarities between the two in the original Joker. This film is billed as a romance melodrama but has a reputation as the earliest Hollywood horror movie. Set in 17th century England, King James II sold Gwynplaine as a boy to "comprachicos" after executing his father. Comprachicos (or "child sellers") mutilated children for use in freak shows, court jesters, or street performers. They stunted their growth, dislocated joints, and in this case carved a permanent smile into the boy's face. Gwyplaine later fell in love with a blind girl and the story goes on. This carved smile is also known as the "Glasgow Smile." Gangs in post-WWI Glasgow sliced their victims on both sides of the mouth. As the victim screamed in pain it only made the cut worse and resulted in a freakish and permanent grin. American serial killer Albert Fish committed this mutilation on a child in 1927. The "smile" made a comeback in the 1970s and 80s in the UK. In 2011 someone in Glasgow was left with a "Glasgow Smile" every 6 hours.

Available Editions

Limited Edition | Scratchboard, 8" x 10" x 0"

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