Byzantine and Russian icons, £15.99
Height: 24.000 cm
Africa, Oceania, Americas
From Turkey, late 19th - early 20th century AD
The tradition of shadow puppet theatre in Turkey can be traced back to the seventeenth century and may have been introduced from Egypt immediately before or after the conquest of Egypt in 1517.
This puppet is in the form of a stork. It is made of thin but stiff leather (camel hide is favoured) which is shaved so thin that it becomes translucent. The hide puppet is decorated in various colours., which glow brilliantly when held up against the lighted curtain of the shadow theatre. In Turkey, the shadow play is called hayal, a phantasm, and the puppeteers the hayali, illusionist. Today the plays are commonly referred to as Karagoz after one of the central characters. The skilled puppeteer is usually supported by two assistants, a singer and a tambourine-player. Traditionally the plays were held in coffee houses or at private gatherings for the wealthy. Today they still take place at very special celebrations in the home.
The stork comes from a collection of 341 shadow puppets which are said to have belonged to a puppeteer who performed at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul before the First World War (1914-18). Other puppets from the collection represent Karagoz in various forms, as well as male and female figures, animals and settings such as 'the coffee shop', 'the palace' and 'the garden'.
E. Paolozzi, Lost magic kingdoms (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)