Never mind Stephen King and Pennywise. Clowns had a long history before becoming associated with horror and fear. They originated in 19th century comedic theatre and were widely used in travelling circuses. Joseph Grimaldi was the world's first great clown and the biggest name in Regency entertainment. His white face make-up became an essential part of the clown costume.

A fear of clowns is a genuine medical condition and called coulrophobia, which brings us back to King. He published It in 1986 and the novel was immediately recognized as a genre-defining piece of horror writing. The book's influence only increased after the release of a 1990 TV mini-series starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the clown.

If you can bear to look, here is a global selection of clowns from art, photography and the book world over the last 150 years. Make up your own mind about whether they are scary or comedic.

Clowns in Arts, Photography & Literature

Collections of Circus Clowns

Are clowns scary? Tell us your thoughts.

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