University of Texas, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Stanley Marcus:

A Preliminary Inventory of His Sicilian Marionettes Collection at the Harry Ransom Center



Creator: Marcus, Stanley, 1905-2002
Title: Stanley Marcus Sicilian Marionettes Collection
Dates: circa 1850-circa 1960
Abstract: The Stanley Marcus Sicilian Marionettes, circa 1850-circa 1960, consists of sixty marionettes and a backdrop curtain. The marionettes form a troupe of characters from the Orlando Furioso story cycle.
Call Number: Performing Arts Collection PA-00056
Extent: 60 marionettes, 1 rolled item
Language: English
Repository: The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center

Scope and Contents

The entrepreneur Stanley Marcus (1905-2002) was president of the Neiman Marcus retail department store chain from 1950 to 1975. He was also an avid art collector and patron of the arts in the Dallas area. The Stanley Marcus Sicilian Marionettes, circa 1850-circa 1960, consists of sixty marionettes and a backdrop curtain. The marionettes, which were purchased by Marcus in 1960, form a troupe of characters from the Orlando Furioso story cycle. They are arranged into three groups: Christians, pagans, and animals. Among the characters represented are Charlemagne, Orlando, various Frankish knights, Moors, princesses and other female characters, horses, demons, dogs, and mythical creatures. Completing the collection is a mid-nineteenth century backdrop curtain for a Sicilian marionette theater, purchased separately.

The marionette tradition in Sicily began in the 1850s when Sicilian wood carvers were inspired by Italian versions of Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem Orlando Furioso, a legend that emerged (with vast embellishment) from the eighth century life of Roland, one of Charlemagne’s knights. These plays emphasized chivalry and swashbuckling adventure, and dramatized the conflict between Christianity and Islam. In the marionette theaters of Sicily, the stories became standardized and were a highly popular entertainment until displaced by television, film, and other mass media. In the latter part of the twentieth century, the tradition of these marionettes was revived with performances in Sicily, and even television was used as a means of continuing this popular tradition.

The marionettes are operated with a wooden-handled metal rod extending from the crown of the head on human figures, and from the center of the back on animal figures, a technique that dates to the Roman Empire. A second rod moves the primary arm (the sword hand for warriors), and a string moves the secondary arm. The jointed legs move freely, and are controlled by manipulating the body through the main rod. The size of the marionette denotes rank: primary characters stand four to five feet in height, secondary characters, about three feet. The armor on warriors can weigh up to forty pounds. Each marionette is stored hanging vertically from its rod.


Restrictions

Access:

Open for research. An advance appointment is required to view the puppets in the Reading Room.


Related Material

Related material is also present in the Ransom Center’s Puppetry Collection, Joel Sherzer Collection, and University of Texas Extension Library Collection.


Administrative Information

Acquisition:

Gift and purchase, 1965, 1992

Processed by:

Carolyn Roark and Helen Adair, 2001, 2005, 2010


Sources:

Wells, Maria Xenia Zevelechi. "The Stanley Marcus Sicilian Marionettes and Related Books." The Library Chronicle of the University of Texas at Austin 23, nos. 2/3 (1993), 35-42.

Wells, Maria Xenia Zevelechi. "Paladins of Sicily: The Pupi of Stanley Marcus’ Collection." FMR 15, no. 77 (1995), 61-80.


Container List

List of Marionettes circa 1850-circa 1960

Christians
Container
22 Carlo Magno (Charlemagne)
Container
23 Galerana
Container
24 Orlando
Container
25 Clarice
Container
26 Ricciardetto
Container
27 Bradamante di Chiarmonte
Container
28 Ruggiero
Container
29 Oliviero
Container
30 Aquilante nero
Container
31 Grifone bianco
Container
32 Uggiero
Container
33 Astolfo
Container
34 Turpino
Container
35 Salamone
Container
36 Brandimarte
Container
37 Viviano
Container
38 Malagigi
Container
39 Terigi
Container
40 Dontrico
Container
41 Gano di Magonza
Container
1 Pinabello d’altaripa
Pages
Container
2 Primo pagetto
Container
3 Secondo pagetto
Container
4 Eremito (hermit)
Container
5 Orlando furioso
Container
6 Belafugar
Container
7 Nucalone
Container
8 Gambacorta
Pagans
Spanish pagans
Container
42 Marsilio
Container
43 Balugante
Container
44 Falserone
Asiatic pagans
Container
45 Gradasso
Container
46 Mandricardo
Container
47 Sacripante
Container
48 Sansonetto
Container
49 Marfisa
Container
50 Angelica
Container
51 Medoro
African pagans
Container
52 Agramante
Container
53 Agolante
Container
54 Trojano
Container
55 Dardinello
Container
56 Sobrino of Algocco
Container
57 Rodomonte
Container
11 Grandonio
Container
58 Saladiello of Siria
Container
59 Balastro
Container
60 Gattamugliera
Moorish soldiers
Container
9 Primo soldato africano
Container
10 Secondo soldato africano
Animals
Container
19 Cane (dog)
Container
20 Cane (dog)
Container
21 Cagnolino (small dog)
Horses
Container
12 Bajardo
Container
13 Frontino
Container
14 Brigliadoro, or "Golden Reins"
Container
18 Leone (lion)
Mythological creatures
Container
15 Drago (dragon)
Container
17 Ippogrifo (hippogriff)
Container
16 Sea serpent
Container
61 Backdrop curtain showing battle scene at the walls of Paris (duel between Bradamante and Dama Rovenza, a Saracen warrior). Oil on canvas, circa 1850