Exquisite turn-of-the-century French shadow theater, comprised of a chromolithographed box illustrated with a central scene depicting the Revue du 14 Juillet à Paris and two smaller scenes from the 1893 Fêtes Franco-Russes, Dunkerque-Cronstadt and the Réceptions au Palais Catherine, the box containing within: an elaborate wooden framed theater stage with chromolithographed front showing an orchestra and labeled "Ombres Chinoises", meant to be displayed in front of a light source, and outfitted with a double-crank system and two rolls of paper which can be scrolled through using the cranks, the paper depicting twelve comic shadow/silhouette scenes as well as containing swaths of red, green, yellow, and blue paper with black hatchmarks, the theater frame also having a slot into which a frame can be slid behind the "curtain" of the stage; six chromolithographed punched paper scenes, meant to be displayed in front of the scrolling colored paper to mimic the impression of fireworks or light displays; a blank screen for shadow figure plays and scenes; approximately thirty-four cut-out shadow figures mounted on cardstock together with two thin metal rods, including children, wild animals, farm animals, mythological figures, a wizard, and Black caricatures; and three sheets of uncut figures, some with the possibility of articulated limbs, depicting knights, dancers, street criers, hunters, and a butterfly chase, among others. Descriptive label affixed to inside of lid. A few of the pierced paper scenes with some tears, one large tear to scrolled paper shadow scenes, some of the tears have been professionally repaired, and some minor soiling, wear, and rubbing to box, overall very fine condition. Box measures approx. 15-1/2 by 20 inches, pierced paper pictures approx. 14-1/4 by 17-1/4 inches. Paris (Pellerin/Dacier) n.d. (circa 1903).
Although the concept of shadow play and puppetry dates back to antiquity, and is especially prevalent in Chinese, Thai, Cambodian, and Southeast Asian tradition, shadow puppetry came to Europe at the end of the 17th century. French showman François Dominique Séraphin first presented his shadow play in a hôtel particulier in Versailles in 1771, going on to perform in front of royalty at Versailles. In 1784, Séraphin moved to Paris, giving regular shows at the Palais-Royal. His nephew took over the show when he died, and his heirs continued the performances until the theatre closed in 1870. Following on this popularity, around the turn of the century, several French publishers put out portable Chinese shadow "games" meant for personal and home use. Some were even included in the catalogs of the famous department stores, La Samaritaine and Au Bon Marché. Mauclair Dacier was foremost among these producers, distributing beautiful and elaborate shadow play theaters. The six punched paper scenes included in this theater are: Revue Navale en l'Honneur du Couronnement du Roi d'Angleterre; l'Arrivée d'Édouard VII a Paris; Couronnement du Rou d'Angleterre; la Loie Fuller ou la Danse Serpentine; Pont Alexandre III, Exposition 1900; and Fêtes du Centenair de Victor Hugo. Book ID: 48995