Puppets have existed in one form or another in nearly every culture throughout human history. In Puppetry: A World history, author Eileen Blumenthal offers a fascinating overview of puppetry, examining the unique nature and abilities of puppets and the countless roles they have played in societies across the globe. Puppets are incredibly diverse, reflecting the varied cultures, enviroments, and often eccentric personalities of their creators. Blumenthal draws on examples from an astonishing array of puppeteers and performances, as well as works of art and historical artifacts to give readers a view of this intricate world.
Readers will discover that puppets are much more than the familiar marionette or a figure won like a glove. They can be as minimal and elegants as two-inch spheres on Russian puppet master Sergei Obraztsov's index figures performing a love scene, or as outrageus as the talking penis in Henri Xhonneux's 1990 film Marquis. They can be as controversial (and hilarious) as a latex version of Margaret Tatcher wielding a meat cleaver to debrain her opponents, or as mysterious as the leather shadow puppets of Southeast Asia shimmering in and out of existence between oil lamp and screen. They include brightly painted salpstick comedians performing cautionary tales about lust and arrogance atop gelede masks in Benin, West Africa, and the haunting skeleton with wich Ilka Schonbein does a silent dance, evoking the terror of Eastren Europe's Jewish ghettos. On the lighter side, there's the never-ending antics of Kermit the Frog and the romantically challenged Miss Peggy and the merry maniac Mr. Punch, versions of wich appear in almost every culture. Readers also will find here the masks and figurines used by shamans as escorts between the physical and spirit worlds, as well as those creations made purely for the delight of audiences, such as the helium-filled characters of Macy's Thanksgivig Day Parade and Alexander Calder's miniature circus.
Lavishly illustrated with 350 images and written in a lively, accesible style, Puppetry: A World History encompasses far more than puppets. It is a celebration of artistic expression around the world, a source of inspriation for artists, and a treasure for lovers of the visual and theater arts.