The word marionette comes from the French term for ''little Mary'' that dates back to around 1600. It was used to describe the first form of what is recognized today as Western puppets, which were Virgin Mary figures that would have been used in church morality plays. What distinguishes marionettes is the way they are made up of many parts which are moveable by string and demand skill from the puppeteer.

In the historical sovereign state of Myanmar, which is now Burma, marionettes were used in the high courts. Rulers would send our warnings using marionettes as a way of revealing information without a human divulging terrifying truths, which was considered highly disrespectful.

There is evidence from the writings of Aristotle and Plato that the ancient Greeks and Romans had their own versions of marionettes, in the form of dolls with string that were often laid on the graves of children.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 13.06.39 Painted plaster Albert Einstein marionette

Puppeteering first made its way to the States by way of immigrants from Italy, France and Britain. In the late 1800s, marionette puppet shows became a popular form of entertainment with productions of Punch & Judy taking place across the countrySicilian marionette shows being run in San Francisco, New York and Boston as well as Greek shadow puppets popular in Chicago and Detroit.

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 13.06.13 Three Matadors marionette, with three figures wearing brightly colored beaded satin costumes, by Tony Urbano, ca. 1968

In US The earliest traditions were imitations of old world forms brought to this country by immigrants from Italy, France, and Great Britain.

In 1915, famous puppeteers Tony Sarg, Ellen Van Volkenberg and Helen Haiman Joseph founded studios in New York City, Chicago and Cleveland, with Sarg's large scale puppets starring in Broadway productions which went on to tour the countryside.

By the 1920s, puppets had made their way into Hollywood movies. Puppets were such a part of culture in America that puppeteers were even drafted into the army especially to entertain the troops in World War II.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 13.02.38 Sky Highchief fully articulated Marlene Dietrich marionette

In the mid 20th century, the movie Lili was released, Peter Schumann's Bread and Puppet Theatre created a parade of puppets in protest against Vietnam.

Skip forward to the 1960s and 1970s, and there was one name when it came to puppets in America: Jim Henson. By the early 1980s, Jim Henson's Muppet Show had been running for 5 years and was incredibly popular around the world.

Jim Henson and Caroll Spinney Jim Henson and Caroll Spinney

By 1990, Jim Henson passed at the age 54, which lead his wife Jane Henson to found the Jim Henson Foundation, which between 1992 and 200 presented the international Festivals of Puppet Theatre in New York City

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 13.05.58 Sky Highchief fully articulated Pinocchio marionette

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 13.02.52 Composition show girl marionette, likely created by Jack Shafton's Studio for the Kroffts, a late 1950's early 1960's

Puppets continued to star on Broadway, with Julie Taymor’s production of Lion King on Broadway fascinating audiences; as well puppets taking center stage in productions of Little Shop of Horrors and Avenue Q, with the latter winning the Tony Award for Best Musical.

Avenue-Q--Tony-Award--Rod--Nicky--Puppets--GIF-- Rod & Nicky puppets Avenue Q with their 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical

And who can forget the 2004 movie Team America:World Police written by South Park's Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Pam Brady with its politically charged humor, it was the most expensive puppet movie ever made.

All marionettes featured are part of Pook & Pook's Antique Toy Auction taking place on September 15. Check out the full catalog here.

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