Collezione Maria Signorelli
Italian marionettes of the 19th and 20th centuries
Puppets of Maria Signorelli
- i fantocci
- i fantocci
The fairy tales, nursery rhymes and films
Shows with classical and modern texts, films
The ballets of Maria Signorelli
19th-20th century Italian rod and glove puppets
19th-20th century Italian marionettes
20th century foreign rod and string puppets
Sicilian, Pugliese and Neapolitan puppets
rod, glove and string puppets
and card theatres, sets and characters
of puppet and marionette plays
Posters of puppet theatre productions and festivals
This section comprises around two hundred items of varied provenance, ranging from 75 to 110 cm in height.
There are very famous examples here, as also the whole of the splendid series (around 80cm tall, complete with sets and photographs taken at the time) used for the play Cristoforo Colombo by the famous Genoese Ugo Ponti (1850-1919), known as ‘the king of the marionettists’, both for his powerful voice and for his resemblance to King Umberto I of Savoy. Among the characters we find various Sailors, the King, the Queen, Guards, Christopher Columbus with his son Diego, Monks and Savages.
Also outstanding is the Cassandrino figure (78cm) who featured at the Teatro Fiano of Rome in 1817. It was described by Stendhal in Rome, Naples and Florence, and also by Leopardi, who quoted it in his satirical Paralipomeni della Batracomiomachia: Cassandrino is a gentleman in a three-cornered hat, with a kindly and very astute expression.
There is a splendid marionette, 75cm tall, by another great marionettist, the Venetian Luciano Zane; it has glass eyes, with face, hands and legs of finely carved wood; it is dressed in a costume of a richly decorated historical style. Zane took up residence at the Teatro delle Vigne in Genoa, where he was admired by many illustrious visitors, among them Dickens, Gautier and Verdi.
The series of marionettes by the
Genoese Giovanni Pavero, who was active in the second half of the nineteenth century, is also very interesting: around 79cm high, they
have very expressive faces. They are all dressed with great attention to detail, with plumed hats, daggers, embroidered clothes,
stockings and shoes. Maria Signorelli acquired a great part of the marionettes present in this section from the Genoese family of
Pallavicini, famous for its company, which was officially inaugurated in 1899 with Raffaele
(1874-1957), the creator of the Baciccia figure.
One very valuable piece is an orchestra of moveable string puppets, from Recco, from the early years of the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century puppet performances often used an orchestra, it too of puppets that, positioned at the front of the proscenium arch, mimed the movements of the musicians. The music came from mechanical apparatus available at the time (for example, the barrel organ).
The orchestra in the collection, belonging to the
Pallavicini family, is composed of nine players: they are string puppets 80cm tall, dressed in red
jackets and black trousers. This is an orchestra of little Negroes, therefore a jazz band, presumably from the 1920s and 1930s. We can
recognize the Violinist (standing), the Pianist (seated at his instrument, 60 x 60 x 20cm), the Trumpet player, the Accordion player,
the Drummer, the Double Bass player and the Saxophonist. In all the orchestra is laid out on an area two and a half metres wide. It was
activated by levers positioned at the sides.