Harlequin character jug version 1 produced in Japan by Sigma The Tastesetter of Garden City, New York, circa 1990. Harlequin is the best-known of the zanni or comic servant characters from the Italian commedia dell'arte, associated with the city of Bergamo. The role is traditionally believed to have been introduced by Zan Ganassa in the late 16th century, was definitively popularized by the Italian actor Tristano Martinelli in Paris in 1584-1585 and became a stock character after Martinelli's death in 1630. The Harlequin is characterized by his checkered costume. His role is that of a light-hearted, nimble, and astute servant, often acting to thwart the plans of his master, and pursuing his own love interest with wit and resourcefulness. He later develops into a prototype of the romantic hero.