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The Ideas Store

All contents are Copyright © 2006-2012 John M Blundall and Stephen Foster or is part of The John M Blundall Collection unless stated otherwise.


In 1662 Samuel Pepys, the diarist, noted that during his stroll in Covent Garden he saw a hooked-nose, red-faced personage with a high pitched squeaky voice - his name Punchinello. This was the first time that he appeared in Great Britain and at that time was a marionette, or string puppet, without the now familiar cast of characters we are used to seeing with him.

Mister Punch is, by origin, an ancient character. In the Greek and Roman theatre we find grotesque characters, particularly Maccus and Buccus, generally thought to be the forerunners of our popular comic folk hero.

In the 14th century illustrated manuscript 'The Romance of Alexander', of Flemish origin, two illustrations show puppet performances in a booth called a castelet. The performance is that of jousting puppets and is the first printed image of a form puppet stage similar to the well known Punch and Judy booth.

In 1625 the painter and engraver Jacques Callot produced a series of works with the title 'The Balli de Sfessania' showing the early characters of the Commedia del'Arte. One of the characters is Pulcinella. With the rising popularity of this character, an enterprising puppeteer near Naples created a glove or hand puppet with the familiar white costume and black half-mask. Slowly, with the popularity of Pulcinella and his travels beyond Italy, changes to his costume and facial features resulted in a character in France by the name of Polichinelle. In other parts of Central and Eastern Europe other comic folk heroes emerged - Kasper, Kasperl, Kasparek, Vasliache, Petrushka etc, all hand puppets except the Czech Kasparek who was a marionette like Polichinelle.

Punchinello, later known as Punch - said to be the result of the English laziness or the inability to accurately pronounce the foreign sounding name - performed as an independent character in other dramas as a puppet or human actor. These performances were in fit-up theatres in Fair's such as those of Bartholomew and Southwark. A detail in William Hogarth's magnificent engraving of 1773 shows 'Punch's Opera' and 'Adam and Eve', and close-by, a small booth with jousting puppets.

William Hogarth's engraving is full of detail, recreating the unique character of these Fairs that were ultimately closed down due to the many improper practises there. With their closure, Mister Punch was forced into finding other ways of developing his character and popularity with a smaller and more portable stage. At this point he became a hand puppet and slowly the now familiar striped chimney-stack booth emerged and a whole new cast of characters with it - most of them based on the many characters to be found in everyday domestic life plus the Devil, a crocodile and also a dolphin!

One of the most popular Punch and Judy men, Piccini - of Italian origin - was celebrated by the journalist John Payne Collier (1789-1883) who wrote down the text of the play whilst the artist George Cruikshank (1792-1878) sketched the numerous scenes. This was ultimately published in 1828 followed by many editions of the work to the present day.

Vast numbers of Punch and Judy publications were produced during the 19th century, particularly the highly coloured (frequently hand-coloured) books for children which include valuable moveable and profiled books. Then came the popular Punch satirical magazine that was published until the end of the 20th century. The vast quantities of toys, ceramics, objects of gold and silver and other metals and materials bears out the continuing popularity of Mr Punch to people of all ages and all walks of life.

Since the earliest appearance of Mr Punch there have been continuous rumours that he was on the way out but he never disappears.

punch Vasliache.jpg Vitez_Laszlo.jpg Jan_Klaasen.jpg Kasper.jpg Kasperek.jpg Konangi.jpg Petrushka.jpg Polichinelle.jpg Pulcinella02.jpg Punch01.jpg PunchandBaby.jpg Southwark_Fair.jpg Book_Plate.jpg Cruikshank.jpg Punch&Judy.jpg Jesson_Brothers01.jpg Jesson_Brothers02.jpg Jesson_Brothers03.jpg Jesson_Brothers04.jpg Judy_cover.jpg Maccus.jpg Mazurier.jpg Pulcinella.jpg Punch_cover.jpg Punch_mag.jpg Petrushka.jpg