© Musei Civici d’Arte Antica Bologna

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On display in the Exhibition(s)
Ephemera, Festivals and Theatrical Representation | The age of the theatre

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Name of Object:
Puppet theatre
Date of Object:
Theatre: c. 1770; marionettes: c. 1750
Theatre: unknown artist from Romagna; marionettes: Veneto
Holding Museum:
Museo di Arte Industriale e Galleria Davia Bargellini
Bologna, Italy

About Museo di Arte Industriale e Galleria Davia Bargellini , Bologna
Period of activity:
Second half eigthteenth-century
Museum Inventory Number:
inv n.701 (proscenium); inv. n.1551 (backdrop); invv. nn.1554, 1555. 1559, 1560 (two pairs of wings)
Material(s) / Technique(s):
Proscenium: painted wood; backdrops and wings: tempera on canvas; marionettes: wood, lead, stucco, wax, stuffed canvas, papier maché for the bodies, different materials and trimmings for the clothes.
Place of production:
Theatre: Romagna; marionettes: Veneto
Proscenium 154x224 cm.; backdrop 82x172 cm.; wings 81,5x25-34,5 cm.; Marionettes: height varying from 23 to 50 cm. ca
Workshop / Movement:
Bibiena school
Theatre: Forlì; marionettes: Veneto
About the third quarter of the eighteenth-century the Albicini family from Forlì commissioned this marionette theatre. The coat of arms on the proscenium is that of the Albicinis'. The present backdrop and wings show a “magnificent atrium” painted by an artist influenced by the scenographic culture of the Bibienas, especially that of Antonio Galli, who was working at that time in Forlì. The backdrop, with its three vanishing points, applies the corner perspective conveying the idea of a space extending behind the visible scene. The theatre has 5 more backdrops and seven pairs of wings, some of which were painted in the nineteenth-century.
Only some of the marionettes are exhibited; on the whole there are 74 male and female figures (some of them are characters from the Commedia dell'arte), 9 horses and 1 monkey, all made in the Veneto. The oldest examples date back to 1750 ca., so that they are older than the theatre of which they are part; the others were made in the eighteenth-century. Even if not produced by the same workshop all the marionettes are characterised by similar technical devices: movable mouth and jointed limbs moved thanks to a control bar. Some of these  marionettes change into something else, a trick widely appreciated at the time (ladies become dwarves and dwarves become giants).
Puppet theatres were very fashionable in Venice where they were used to represent plays from the Commedia dell'Arte and even by comediographer Carlo Goldoni. They were mostly present in noble residences. During the eighteenth-century this habit spread in the north of the country,  unfortunately only few survive and we lack information on their use.
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Current Owner:
Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (deposit)
Original Owner:
eighteenth-century: Albicini family (Forlì); beginning twentieth-century: Raffaele De Courten (Florence)
How date and origin were established:
Stylistic reasons
How Object was obtained:
Purchased by the Italian Ministry of Instruction from the Venetian antique dealer Dino Barozzi in 192. It was originally sent to the Pinacoteca Nazionale of Bologna as an example of Bibienesque art. In 1930 it was moved to the Museo di Arte Industriale e Galleria Davia Bargellini.
Selected bibliography:
Ghirardi, A. in L'arte del Settecento. Architettura, Scenografia, Pittura di paesaggio (exhibition catalogue) (ed. A. M. Matteucci), Bologna, 1980, n. 192, pp.132-133.
Lenzi, D. and Melloni, R., in Museo Civico d'Arte Industriale e Galleria Davia Bargellini (ed. R. Grandi), Bologna, 1987, pp. 174-180.
Adani, G., “Lo strumentario domestico”, Atlante dei beni culturali dell'Emilia Romagna, I. I Beni Artistici. I Beni degli artigianati storici (eds. J. Bentini and G. Adani), Milano, 1993, p. 208, fig. 34.
Tumidei, S. in I Bibiena una famiglia europea  (exhibition catalogue) (eds. D. Lenzi  and J. Bentini), Venice, 2000, n. 91, pp. 344-345.
Citation of this web page:
Silvia  Battistini "Puppet theatre" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2016.;BAR;it;Mus12;47;en
Prepared by: Silvia Battistini
Translation by: Antonella Mampieri
MWNF Working Number: IT2 52