Glove-Puppets-art - 7/15/17
"Glove Puppets" by HL Nidda Ridarelli.
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Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
by HL Nidda Ridarelli
Research based on the images found in the Roman du bon roi Alexandre Manuscript by Jehan de Grise, France 1344.
Roman du bon roi Alexandre illuminated manuscript at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, showing two puppet booths.
These images may be the only depiction of glove puppets within SCA period.
A puppet is defined as an inanimate figure that is made to move by human effort before an audience (Baird 13). Some hand puppets, called glove puppets, were controlled by putting a hand in the puppet and moving the head and arms with the thumb and fingers (Bohmer 15). Others, called rod puppets, were similar but had a rod inside, and sometimes a second rod connected to the hand or arm of the puppet that would be used to control movement (Bohmer 37). The theaters or booths for both types of hand puppets were made like the ones pictured above. The puppeteer would be able to stand and hold the puppets above his head or have his head behind the domed part of the curtain (Jurkowski 61).
Who used puppets?
Vagrant puppeteers, who were not considered artists, would not have thought to write anything about themselves or their craft. They may not even have known their birthday (Bohmer 6). Given their audiences it is not surprising that there is not much written about them.
In the Castilian court in 1273 a distinction was recorded to mark the specialization of performers. The lowest class of performers was known as the cazurros, "persons who neither speak nor sing, but who train animals and handle puppets" (Jurkowski 54). They often had their puppets interact with trained monkeys (Jurkowski 55).
Itinerant minstrels brought biblical instruction and entertainment to rural areas (McIsaac 20). Puppet repertoire was all inclusive (Joseph 59) and reflected the tastes of the people in the land in which they performed. They were also used for satire and were the first impressionists (one who does impressions of famous people). Traveling puppet players would perform anything of interest and popularity to the populace. Many puppet troupes played at private parties in wealthy residences (Joseph 56). Other vagrant performers were at the mercy of the lord of the land to determine what they would perform, although, they were always able to gain an audience at any public fairground or crossing (Jurkowski 68).
What characters were made?
Some characters have been religious figures (Jurkowski 71). The Nativity and the story of Noah were popular puppet plays. Other popular figures have been the Devil and, toward the end of period, Punch. He was earlier known as Vice in the morality plays (All the Year RoundPunch and the Puppets pg 517 April 27, 1872).
The Clergy also used puppets to enact Mysteries of Mid-August (Baird 64). Throughout the Middle Ages puppets were widely used to enact the scriptures until they were banned by the Council of Trent in the 1540's (Currell 8).
There is nothing known about the puppeteer or puppeteers in the manuscript illuminations. The puppet show with the men watching looks like there many have been two or more puppeteers since four puppets are visible on stage. The two outer puppets could be on stands and one person performing the battle scene. It is unclear from the image but the booth looks as if it could accommodate at least two puppeteers.
The ladies puppet show looks to be more relaxed and engaging, possibly involving a dialog (Jurkowski 61). It could also have been of considerable length as the women have seated themselves to watch.
Who made them?
Vagrant puppeteers made their own puppets (Bohmer 6). Puppets were made of any material that existed in period, just like we might use a paper bag or sock. Glove puppets would have had a textile body and head and possibly the hands could have been made out of any suitable and available medium (Bohmer 67). Materials that could have been used are wood, clay, and ivory (Currell 8). When puppet play had evolved to the point of theater use, a theater or troupe would have had them made and had costumes made for them (Urban 580).
How were they made?
Since the documentation of puppets is difficult (I have yet to find anything that applies to puppet making specifically) I have researched wood working tools and sewing methods. Tools available in the Middle Ages include the bow saw (Mercer 153), and the paring chisel which was sharp enough to be used with hand pressure or a mallet (Mercer 166). The woodcut shows a carpenter's shop with a saw in use and chisels on the wall.
Some common sewing stitches used for medieval hand sewing are the running stitch, the whip stitch and the back stitch (Crowfoot 153-158). The puppet body can be made using rectangular construction and any of these stitches.
Böhmer's book, The Wonderful World of Puppets is a catalog of the Puppet Collection of the City of Munich. This catalog has collections from Europe, Africa and Asia. The book shows that the oldest puppets still in existence consist of a wooden head and textile body. This tells me that they were either the most prolific type or the most durable. The oldest puppets in the collection are from Japan and they are from the 17th century.
Archeological Journal: Researches into the Early and Middle Ages. Archeological Institute London 1848
Baird, Bil. The Art of the Puppet. A Ridge Press Book, Macmillan Company, New York, 1965
Bohmer, Gunter. The Wonderful World of Puppets. Plays Inc., Boston, 1969
Currell, David. Puppets and Puppet Theatre. Crowood Press Ltd., Ramsbury, Marlborough, 1999
Hone, William. The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England.William Tegg, London, 1867
Joseph, Helen Haimen. A Book of Marionettes.B. W. Huebsch, New York, 1920
Jurkowski, Henryk. History of European Puppetry: a history of European puppetry from its origins to the end of the 19th century. Edwin Mellen Press, Ltd., New York, 1996
McIsaac, P.J.. The Tony Sarg Marionette Book.B.W. Huebsch, New York, 1921
Urban, Sylvanus. Gentleman's Magazine: Vol. CCLXV, July to December 1888. Chatto & Windas, Piccadilly, London 1888
Virtual Puppet Museum http://www.teatrodeldrago.it/MUSEO%20VIRTUALE/museo-virtuale2.htm
Crowfoot, Elisabeth; Frances Pritchard; Kay Stanilard. Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450Medieval finds from Excavations in London: 4. Boydell Press, Woodbridge, London, 2001
Mercer, Henry C. Ancient Carpenters Tools. Dover Publications, Inc. New York 2000
Copyright 2014 by Danni Nidda Thorniley. <dannidda at gmail dot com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.