What’s a Puppet?

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Marionettes are jointed puppets moved by strings, with Czech, Italian, and German puppets being famous. Puppets date back to ancient Egypt and Greece, made from various materials. Skilled artists can teach puppet manipulation, and high-quality dolls have ornate clothing. Puppet plays were popular in Europe in the 1800s and still continue in some theaters, such as the Salzburg Puppet Theater.

A marionette is a type of jointed puppet that can be made to move with the help of strings pulled from above. Czech, Italian and German puppets are particularly famous, and these European nations also have a long history of puppetry. Many fine examples of antique puppets can be seen in museums, and new puppets can be purchased from artisan craftsmen and shops selling European curios. In regions of the world where puppet theater is still performed, it is worth seeing a show, as this ancient art is quite interesting to observe.

In Italian, a puppet is known as a fantoccino. The word “marionette” itself derives from the Old French mariole, which means “musical instrument”. In cultures with a tradition of puppet-playing, interested individuals can learn the art of puppet-manipulation from skilled artists. It takes work to learn how to operate a puppet properly; talented performers can create startlingly realistic shows with their puppets.

The first puppets appear to have emerged around 2000 BC in ancient Egypt. Excavations of Egyptian tombs have revealed puppets made from a wide variety of materials. Some of these puppets were quite ornate and appear to have been used in plays. The art of puppets also spread to Greece and Rome; although few examples of Greek and Roman puppets exist, ancient artwork depicts puppets in action, suggesting that many people were familiar with them.

The materials of construction used to make a puppet vary widely. The most basic puppets are made from wood, while historically porcelain, bone, and horn have also been used. Depending on the craftsman, a puppet may be designed to go through multiple costume changes, sometimes with ornate miniature clothing made from silk and linen with accents in jewels and precious metals. The very high quality dolls are also very well articulated and able to be moved around in a variety of ways.

In the 1800s, puppet plays were quite popular in many parts of Europe. The puppets were also taken on the road, performing a variety of shows for country audiences as standalone events or as part of fairs and circuses. Several very old puppet theaters continue to present puppet shows to audiences in Europe; in Salzburg, for example, the Salzburg Puppet Theater performs works by Mozart.

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