Archive for the puppets Category

Pulling Strings in Babylon, the International Puppetry Museum

Posted in Clive Hicks-Jenkins, International Puppetry Museum, Punch & judy, puppets on July 19, 2011 by babylonbaroque

The marvelous artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins (if you are unfamiliar with this artist, you MUST check out his site) has declared this week to be Puppet Week at his Artlog.

The post brings a smile as puppets are wont to do.

I have myself  intended to post on what seems the very Mecca of Puppetry , found  right here in Los Angeles, the Pasadena based International Puppetry Museum.

Following Mr. Hicks-Jenkin’s lead , this is the result.

Having visited this museum on the advice of my chum Gina ( she being  a member of a puppet making-performing-loving clan), I was instantly dazzled,and of course charmed beyond belief.

For in this somewhat forlorn parish hall of a somewhat faded Episcopal church was a treasure trove hidden in plain sight.

Although there was a display of puppets behind glass, thoughtfully presented; the bulk of the collection, hung over head in a jumble of strings, piled here in there in a chaotic jumble and  perhaps more heartbreaking, painstakingly categorized and stored  in pedestrian Rubbermaid containers; suitable  perhaps for out of season suburban holiday decor, but not magic of this quality.

But the very sad, very real fact is this treasure trove of a museum cannot afford to properly display, archive, care for these gems without funding. Simple storage is the most immediate solution, the fear being of course a need to sell this amazing collection piece-meal. That would be a terrible tragedy.

Los Angeles had been, may still be , a hub of puppetry , the Industry had made great use of puppets magic. but in this grim de-humanized Digital Age, Anime reigns supreme; the subtle charms of string, felt and whitled wood do not seem to captivate our jaded youth.

That is until they witness an actual puppet show, then the  enchantmnt begins anew.

Detail of a puppet set, enough wizardry to satisfy any Potter fan.

detail of detail

My visit to IPM caught me off guard, I was not prepared to document what I found, equiped with my I-phone I simply clicked away. There is no attempt at identification, just memories of my own bewlderment. If you desire more information, please visit, and if you can PLEASE donate, we mustn’t lose this international treasure.

a mad delightful jumble

a more dignified presentation

Beloved Punch has at last lost his head. For more images of dear Punch, check out this former post.

I believe this and the following to be Sicilian, they are quite large, 36 inches or so, perhaps a bit more. Marvelous.

In closing I sincerely encourage a visit to the International Puppetry Museum, even just a quick peek at their site. You will be enchanted, and please if you can ,send along some cash, our Stringed friends need you.

Until next time,

respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

The Punch & Judy Show, the original Slapstick

Posted in Bruce Nauman, Commedia dell'arte, Punch & judy, puppets on August 16, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As it is a lovely day here in the City of Angels, a day of good cheer and optimism; I thought Punch and Judy with its domestic violence,  unbridled brutality, corrupt law enforcement, rampaging reptiles, and Satan himself, a perfect topic.

I also happen to be at work on a painting of Mr.Punch, sans Judy;I should say I am currently avoiding that work as I am at work on this blog ABOUT Mr. Punch.

I was reminded of my interest in Punch by my last post on the   Incroyables ( see side bar); these Bright Young things minced about with a large bludgeon-like staff which they referred to as their “Executive Power”. Punch , another silly man with a big stick, seemed a natural progression.

Punch, derivative of the commedia dell’arte character Polchinello has always been a personal favorite.

Making his first appearance around 1662, he was wildly popular in London and Paris, he and Judy did cross the great ocean, gaining  popularity in the Colony, George Washington is known to have laughed at his antics.

Punch and company  initially were enacted on stage by marionettes, economics seems to have factored into the use of hand puppets. With light weight portable theatre and ingenious puppets, it was possible for one puppeteer to act as an itinerant troupe, perhaps a shill in the audience collecting appreciative change. From seaside attraction to seaside attraction, they entertained a vast array of folks.

It is a bit shocking to think that this shrill little hunchbacked fellow, beating on his wife, tossing Baby out the window, outwitting the police , even cavorting with Satan; was/is considered appropriate fare for wee ones. But of course he wasn’t the last fellow of dubious character to gain wild youthful popularity; the vicious antics of the Three Stooges, the stupidity of Homer Simpson, the cruelty of RoadRunner and Wily E Coyote of course come to mind.

By Victoria’s time, some of his antics were notched down a bit, precisely to address this issue; part of  her agenda for wholesomeness and family values perhaps.

A wonderful cartoon by the always wonderful George Cruikshank (1792-1878)

Of course the beatings still continued, domestic violence is always so amusing apparently.

Judy beats Punch

Judy goes down.

“That’s the way to do it!”

Punch triumphant.

Punch en famille.

Love springs eternal, always ready for another round.

Of course no discussion of Punch is complete without a mention of the wonderful magazine Punch. The cartoons have long been an inspiration to me, the dark wit, the attention to detail, the serious treatment of satire.

Punch and his crazy-assed antics inspire today, as this little video clip creepily illustrates; shades of Tim Burton.

“That’s the way to do it!”

The talented dollmakers David Chapman and Paul Robbins have done wonders with the theme.

Really quite marvelous.

Their work captures the spirit of this vintage ensemble.

Even contemporary artists such as Bruce Nauman have explored the theme.

Punch & Judy II, Birth & Life & Sex & Death

Bruce Nauman


tempera and graphite on paper


In my modest way, I will attempt to continue the tradition.

Yours truly at work.

Have a great day.

Post Script

At the suggestion of the ever fabulous Chateau Thombeau , I include this clip from the Stranglers, “Punch & Judy”. I must confess i am unfamiliar with the Stranglers, but the clip includes a bare chested young fellow and is of course thematic. Thank you Chateau Thoimbeau.

The Stranglers, Punch and Judy

Have a great evening.