The oldest of all clowns, the Whiteface can be traced back through commedia dell'arte and medieval court jesters to the theaters of ancient Greece, where comedic actors frequently painted their features white so they could be better seen.
The Whiteface can be further divided into three groups:
The Classic (European) Whiteface, sometimes called the 'most majestic and beautiful' of the Whitefaces; an elegant clown, like the Pierrot or Harlequin of commedia dell'arte;
The Auguste (pronounced ah-GOOST) is a mixture of Whiteface and Tramp. The classic Auguste appearance is the opposite of the Whiteface, with prominent fleshtones and black-and-white features, a large ball-shaped nose, and extravagant mismatched costumes (oversized neckties, very small hats, etc.).
A common variation on the Auguste is the Contra-Auguste, sometimes described as an Auguste trying to be a Whiteface. He mediates the conflict between the Whiteface and the Auguste, often with funny results
A uniquely American clown, some believe that the idea of the Tramp originated with the hobos who rode the rails during the Great Depression. The classic Tramp look a sooty face, with white around the eyes and mouth may refer back to the coal smoke from America's rail yards.
The customary features of the Tramp include a flesh-toned face, a beard of stubble, a ruddy nose, tattered suit and hat, and fingerless gloves.
The Tramp can be further divided into three groups, though the basic costume remains the same for each:
The Classic Tramp, The Hobo or Vagabond, his manners are often elegant and refined; he's happy to be free of society.