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Heidelberg Palace

Detailansicht des Kopfes der Statue des Zwerges Perkeo; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff
The hard-drinking jester

Court jester Perkeo

The small Perkeo was Prince-Elector Carl Philipp von der Pfalz's court jester in the early 18th century. His pranks and love of wine made him famous; a cup of water supposedly killed him.

Portrait of Perkeo, cup-bearer of Heidelberg, by Johann Georg Dathan. Image: Wikipedia, public

Johann Georg Dathan immortalized Perkeo in a portrait.

How Perkeo got his name

Perkeo, whose name was actually Clemens Pankert, was steward and cup-bearer to the prince-elector. He was responsible for the royal wine stores. However, this diminutive man from Salorno himself consumed an enormous amount of wine. Asked if he would like to throw back another cup of wine, Perkeo always answered in Italian, "Perché no?" – "Why not?", which is how he got his famous nickname.

Oh no, water!

According to legend, Perkeo could empty the Great Barrel, containing approximately 200,000 liters, in a single gulp. Surprisingly, it was not his great wine consumption that supposedly killed him, but rather the accidental consumption of a cup of water.

Statue of the dwarf, Perkeo, in front of the Great Barrel at Heidelberg Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Left of the Great Barrel: Perkeo.

Royal cup-bearer and court jester

Prince-Elector Carl Philipp met Perkeo when he was vicegerent of Tyrol. Fascinated by his diminutive size, his quick wit, and his ability to hold his drink, he brought him back to Heidelberg in 1718, to entertain the court. Perkeo's pranks charmed court society so much that a monument was built in his honor while he was still alive.

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