I’m on my way to finishing my first carved marionette. In the meantime I wanted to share just a few of the hundreds of marionettes I was lucky enough to see last week at Mrs. Vorlova’s house.
Mrs. Vorlova and her husband began collecting marionettes while the Czech Republic was part of the Soviet Empire (and was not called ‘the Czech Republic’ but ‘Czechoslovakia’). In an effort to unify the artistic output of their entire country, the Communists consolidated the Czech marionette tradition into a national theatre, shutting down all other marionette theaters in the process. At this time, the Vorlovas were saving up to buy a car, but when they heard that an accomplished marionette maker was being forced to throw out all of his marionettes, they decided to use their savings to buy the marionettes instead. This began a decades-long effort to rescue soon-to-be-discarded marionettes all through the Czech country.
Now these marionettes— some over 150 years old— all reside within the Vorlova residence and their next-door additional storage space. Some hang from the ceiling, some from the walls, some in display cases. It’s as if you’ve stumbled into the most remarkable private museum— and indeed, various museums have expressed interest in buy some of these marionettes, but Mrs. Vorlova isn’t interested in selling.
Some appear to be too fragile to use in performance, but we were lucky enough to watch just a few from her collection in action including an acrobat who could do handstands on his hand-carved chair and a swamp creature whose head was covered in a myriad of strings that could move his mouth, bulge out his eyes, and articulate individual eyebrows.
There’s so much more to mention here, but I’m afraid that it’s 12:30 here and I’ve got another full day tomorrow painting and clothing my marionette. In any case, I’m happy to report that Prague is beautiful, charming, and already proving to be a fantastic first stop on my Watson adventure.