Thematic album and "Magic Puppet performance" for the Puppetry Day (video)

The idea of celebrating International Puppetry Day around the world came from the puppet theater artist Javad Zolfaghari from Iran. In 2000 at the 18th Congress of the Union Internationale de la Marionnette, (UNIMA) in Magdeburg, he made the proposal for discussion. Two years later, at a meeting of the International Council of UNIMA in June 2002 in Atlanta, the date of the celebration was identified. The first celebration was in 2003.

The occupation of a profession of a mistress of needlework that dressed up a manufactured doll from toe to crown has been known is Russia since ancient times. The profession later became known as a puppet-maker that creates puppets in different techniques, reconstructing fairy-tale characters or true-life people; designs marionettes for puppet theatres and cartoons. Throughout history, dolls and puppets appeared in people's lives. They served as amulets, voodoos, jewellery, luxury items and for fun.

As toys, dolls have been known since prehistoric times. They served as sacred pagan objects, and to a certain extent, a doll can be considered the ancestor of sculpture. The puppet theater has been developing since ancient times. . Evidence of ritual miracle plays in Egypt was preserved. A character portraying the Elder fertility God and Osiris, the Lord of another world realized the theatrical performance. The oldest of the dolls archaeologists have unearthed date back some four thousand years. The small figures, sometimes a crude boulder without arms and legs, were not meant to be played with -- the dolls were buried with their owner as a funeral gift, so that the deceased would not be alone.

The ancient Greek philosophers Herodotus, Xenophon and Aristotle also make references to playing dolls.

Making dolls singled out as separate artisanship in Ancient Greece, in the 5th-4th centuries BC. Most Greek dolls were made from terracotta and their limbs were attached to their bodies with rope or wire. The town of Sordis, advantageously situated on the trade route to Persia, was a famous toy-making center. In ancient Rome, puppet shows became a frequent practice and were intended to mock human vices and imperfections. The girls were presented with dolls on Saturnalia days (celebrating the end of the harvest and the New year advent). The dolls accompanied Roman maidens all the way to her wedding day. On the day of her marriage, a maiden sacrificed her dolls to the Goddess Venus, renouncing her childhood and virginity.

The dolls were changing with time, their appearance becoming more and more human-like. A puppeteer combined multifarious skills: actor, artist, artisan and engineer, manager, sometimes – text author of the words and reciter.

Puppetry production in Europe emerged in the Middle Ages. In the early Middle Ages, puppets were made for theatrical performances based on the Biblical plots, the most popular of which was the story of the Virgin Mary and the birth of Christ, thus puppets were called "marionettes" from Marion (Mary).

In the 14th century in France, wooden and rag-dolls (less frequently earthenware dolls) were made to order and dressed up in fashionable attire, thus demonstrating the latest trends and tendencies (fashion dolls). In England, the dolls were usually made from pinewood. Sometimes faces and hands were covered with plaster and then carefully painted and varnished. V&A Museum of Childhood* stores one such specimen, created in 1680 -- a gift to a loyal courtier by someone belonging to the Stuart family. Such dolls were artfully made by skilled carvers, then lavishly dressed up and offered for sale.

From the second half of the 17th century France began to set the fashion for all Europe, both in politics and economics, in spiritual life and fashion. With this end in view, gorgeous Pandoras were created in France, which were veritable works of art. They were medium-sized porcelain dolls with the approximate proportions of an adult woman, dressed in the height of fashion. The doll came with an entire wardrobe, chests of perfume novelties and a huge number of accessories. Later, in the 1960s, Pandoras were reborn as mannequins (a Dutch word meaning "man").

The dolls gradually became more complex and their creation more time-consuming. Hence, the specialization of artisans appeared. At this time each artisan was plying his trade – a carpenter made doll-like furniture, the potter made crockery, and the tailor made attire. It was not until the 15th and 16th centuries that the dolls were dressed in the clothes made especially for them. Before that, the apparel on the dolls were painted, cut out or glued on them.

In the 18th century, a new boom -- mechanical automata dolls, overtook Europe. The puppeteer searched out the character of the puppet and gave it the naturality so that it was a vivid personality and not just a mechanism. To create a puppet, one had to invent and embody its appearance and character. For a real artist, a doll was a living creature.

There are so many types of dolls nowadays, and an artist-puppeteer has to faces work with fabric, wood, polymer clay, porcelain, paint and other materials. Handmade art dolls rarely are designated for children. They are destined to decorate interiors and be exhibited in galleries and museums. The craft of puppetry is both a fine art and a fancywork.

What is a puppet created by an artisan? It is actually an image, a model imitation of a living creature - a person, an animal, maybe even an evil spirit.

To mark the holiday we have prepared a Thematic album featuring the museum collection of unique musical automata dolls to mark the international Puppetry Day is posted in the museum Photo Gallery. Dolls-musicians and dancers, acrobats and magicians, musical paintings, mini-theaters and many other prominent exhibits are presented in it.

The video "Magic Puppet Performance" featuring the unique automata stored in the museum Collection that were created by the prominent artisans -- Leopold Lambert, Jean RoulletHenriette Decamps and Henri Decamps is posted in our Video Archive  to mark the international Pupettry Day

More exhibits are presented in the collection section "Amusing Automata", featuring diverse exhibits from all over the world.

We congratulate all those artisans and artisans that are engaged in puppetry art and wish them creative success and inspiration!

On the cover: Musical automaton “A stray puppeteer”. Camus. Switzerland, Saint Croix. Circa 1970

*Pandora was a 17th-18th-century doll, designed to display clothing and fashion trends.
**Young V&A, formerly the V&A Museum of Childhood, is a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum (the "V&A"), which is the United Kingdom's national museum of applied arts