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Puppetry:  A World History

Puppetry: A World History
Eileen Blumenthal
New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005
PN1972 .B57 2005

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, environments, 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 worn like a glove. They can be as minimal and elegant as two-inch spheres on Russian puppet master Sergei Obraztsov's index finger performing a love scene, or as outrageous as the talking penis in Henri Xhonneux's 1990 film Marquis. They can be as controversial (and hilarious) as a latex version of Margaret Thatcher 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 slapstick comedians performing cautionary tales about lust and arrogance atop gelede masks in Benin, West Africa, and the hauting skeleton with which Ilka Schonbein does a silent dance, evoking the terror of Eastern Europe's Jewish ghettos. On the lighter side, there's the never-ending antics of Kermit the Frog and the romantically challenged Miss Piggy and the merry maniac Mr. Punch, versions of which 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 Thanksgiving Day Parade and Alexander Calder's miniature circus.

Lavishly illustrated with 350 images and written in a lively, accessible style, Puppetry: A World History encompasses more than puppets. It is a celebration of artistic expression around the world, a source of inspiration for artists, and a treasure for lovers of the visual and theater arts.

Quoted from dust jacket.