Stan Bult started the Clown Egg Register in 1946 as a way of recording the individual faces of members of the International Circus Clown Club, which became the Clowns International organisation in the late 1970s.
Bult’s way of displaying the unique markings of each clown’s face was to paint a ‘blown’ egg. What initially started out as a hobby became a technique that has been used ever since as new artists have taken over the tradition.
Now, a new book of images of some of the face-paint designs submitted to the Clown Egg Register is being published by Particular Press, with portrait photographs by Luke Stephenson and brief biographies of each featured clown by Helen Champion.
There’s Zippo (yes the Zippo) and Coco, even the tufted Grimaldi (below), recognised as the father of clowning, alongside other practitioners ranging from Beato (shown top of post) and Tofi, to Tom Fun, Harty and Rosa Milanes.
According to Stephenson’s introduction to the book, the Wookey Hole Clowns’ Museum in Somerset holds a large collection of the registered eggs, while a few are also kept at the Holy Trinity Church in Dalston in east London. While some of the early eggs still survive, many have perished and most of the new editions are painted onto ceramic eggs.
Part copyright register, part folk archive, as Stephenson suggests, the new book of the Clown Egg Register is also a history of a long-standing artistic tradition and a celebration of all those who have invented a comic persona in the pursuit of laughs.