Collezione Maria Signorelli





Italian rod and glove puppets of the 19th and 20th centuries  




Life of Maria Signorelli

Puppets of Maria Signorelli  

The Puppets of Maria Signorelli - i fantocci

The fairy tales, nursery rhymes and films

Shows with classical and modern texts, films

  The ballets of Maria  Signorelli



Podrecca Fund 

Trieste puppets 


19th-20th century Italian rod and glove puppets

18th century Italian marionettes 

19th-20th century Italian marionettes 

20th century foreign rod and string puppets 

Eastern and Wayang puppets and marionettes

Sicilian, Pugliese and Neapolitan puppets  


Shadow puppets


Toy rod, glove and string puppets    

Seven trunks of stage properties

  Paper and card theatres, sets and characters   



Italian and foreign literature on the history and techniques of puppet theatre

Toy theatres  

Scripts of puppet and marionette plays  

Posters of puppet theatre productions and festivals

The exhibitions



It is generally known that puppet theatres have existed from the sixteenth century on, but their enormous popularity in the nineteenth century is also  recorded by a considerable amount of evidence, both visual (for example, Bartolomeo Pinelli’s lithographs and Dura’s coloured engravings) and literary (from D’Azeglio to Belli,  Stendhal, Andersen and Gregorovius, to name just a few). 


Unlike marionette, or string puppet, theatre, rod or glove puppet theatre was popular on a broader front, and  performed in public piazzas where the so-called ‘baracca’ (booth) or ‘casotto’ (hut) for the puppets was set up. 

This theatre often drew on the plots of the commedia dell’arte, and the possibility for improvising allowed the best puppeteers to pass on through their shows news gathered in various places, and indeed at times to criticise political and military institutions. It was not for nothing that  a satirical newspaper founded in Rome around the middle of the nineteenth century was called Il Casotto dei burattini (The puppet booth), with as its motto: ‘If you don’t like it you can leave.’  


In the Signorelli Collection there are at least a hundred and fifty items of varied provenance, between 50 and 60cm tall, with finely carved wooden hands and heads, some with glass eyes, and with richly decorated headgear and costumes; there are also others of simpler make.

Around thirty puppets by the Bolognese Emilio Frabboni (1880-1952) stand out, with splendid heads and very well preserved costumes: these are of many characters from traditional commedia dell’arte, such as Fagiolino, Balanzone, Brighella and Sganapino. 

Of special interest too are various items (with little curtains and handbills belonging to the great family of puppeteers Campogalliani, who were active for around 200 years) and in particular to Ugo (1864-1943). But the beautiful Warrior of Emilio Preti (1845-1914) is also worthy of note, and from Modena a complete series of toy puppets (Sandrone, Fagiolino, Brighella, Tartaglia, Sganapino, Doctor Balanzone, the King, the Old Woman, the Young Man, Death, the Magician, the Devil and the Nobleman), all around 40cm tall, by the Bolognese Luciano Bettini, and intended for a child as first communion gift. 

Several puppets have been preserved made by the Venetian Emilio Zago (1852-1929) remarkable for the extraordinary vivacity of the faces, in addition to costumes designed with historical accuracy and richness of detail. 


One of the most valuable items is the Pulcinella (40cm),  by Ghetanaccio (Gaetano Santangelo, 1782-1832), the most famous Roman puppeteer of the nineteenth century, who was thrown in prison several times because of his satires against the Papal government. His ‘casotto’, or hut, which he carried on his shoulders, was also painted by Pinelli, while some episodes of his life have been caustically recounted by, among others, the poets Belli and Zanazzo. 


Maria Signorelli wrote a monograph on Ghetanaccio, published in 1960 by the Paduan firm Amicucci. 

There are also various xylographs in this section by Aristide Barilli depicting the puppets of Italo Ferrari (formerly belonging to Petrolini), as well as curtains (such as that of a Bolognese puppet theatre painted in oils and representing four famous figures of commedia dell’arte, 160x113cm), playbills, nineteenth-century  photographs of children at  performances in the piazza, old newspapers, photographs of historical puppet theatres or of works of great artists who have immortalised scenes of this popular type of theatre.







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