European Whiteface Clown

The European Whiteface Clown, also called the 'Classic Whiteface,' is the most 'beautiful' of clowns. He wears costumes that sparkle and shine, and makeup that delicately enhances his facial features.

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The classic European Whiteface is the grandfather of modern-day clowns. While other actors wore masks, the 'clown' had a floured or powdered face. The character of the clown interacted with the audience as much, if not more, than he interacted with other characters in the performance and it was important for the audience to see the varied expressions on his face as he performed. The white of the flour or powder made that possible.

European Whiteface Clown-Rudy Llatge
European Whiteface Clown
(Rudy Llatge)

Today's European Whiteface clown type will often have the ears painted red. Facial features are delicate. The mouth is usually bright red but the shape is not exaggerated as in the Grotesque Whiteface. Eyebrows are painted with an artistic flair and, most often, two different sizes; sometimes only one eyebrow is painted. The nose is often slightly accented with red around the nostrils.

A white, conical hat continues the look of the make-up. With most or all of the hair tucked inside there is the impression of baldness, also adding height and, therefore, stature to the whiteface character.


The European Whiteface costume has also remained similar to those of the first famous European clowns. Joseph Grimaldi (1779-1837), considered the "Father of Modern-Day Clowning" wore costumes popular in the late 1600's with silk hose that had decorations, netherhose (those puffy pants), a shirt, colorful vest and slippers.

European Whiteface Clown Philippe Heran
European Whiteface Variations
(Philippe Heran)

The white "Pierrot-style" costume was popular, although the black trim quickly gave way to other colored buttons or pompons on the front, along with colorful piping and ruffles for clowns who were not portraying the Pierrot character.

The 21st Century Whiteface costume differs in that the length of the outfit is just below the knees, with light, nearly skin-toned stockings and shoes. Both one- and two-piece suits are worn, adorned with sequins, rhinestones or other decorations, making the costume quite elaborate and very elegant.

European Whiteface Clown
European Whiteface Clown "Fred"
(Claude Biencourt)

Whiteface clowns should have no skin showing. White gloves are worn to fully cover hands and wrists and, while colored gloves are becoming popular, white is required for all competitions. Shoes should be simple and not draw attention away from the costume - ballet or dancing slippers are commonly worn.

Be sure to check out the other Whiteface Clown styles:
Neat (Standard) Whiteface and Grotesque (Comedy) Whiteface.

Famous European Whiteface Clowns

  • Joseph Grimaldi(1778-1837)
  • Harry Payne "Clown"(?-1895)
  • Francois Fratellini (1879-1951)
  • Francesco Caroli (1922-present)
  • Arthur "Vercoe" Pedlar (1932-present)

Joseph Grimaldi
as "Clown"

Harry Payne
as "Clown"



"Arturo" Pedlar

Bald Curly Clown WigHobo Tramp Wig

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