Hand Puppet

About this object

History of use

Punch and July is a well-known puppetry tradition in England, UK. The first recorded show took place in London in 1662, but the tradition dates back to 16th century Italian commedia dell’arte and the character Punchinello. The performance is a series of skits full of humour, violent episodes, political satire, and puns, with audience participation encouraged. The main characters are Mr. Punch, his long-suffering wife Judy, their baby, and a host of set characters: the Policeman, the Devil, the Ghost, the Doctor, the Crocodile, Joey the Clown, Toby the Dog, etc. Punch has a distinctive hooked nose and pointy chin, red cheeks, and manic grin (from Shadow, Strings & Other Things, 2019).

Specific techniques

Brian Davey first draws a layout grid and outlines the contours of the puppet’s head on a block of lime (linden) wood. He then carves it out using a combination of electric band and hand saws. For the hooked nose and pointy chins, he carves these features separately from oak wood and then attaches them to the lime wood head with a mortise-and-tenon joint. After sanding the puppet’s head by hand to a smooth and silky finish, Brian paints it with a primer and several layers of acrylic gesso before airbrushing on the pinkish flesh colour and adding red highlights. For other features such as the brows, eyes and mouth he uses a paintbrush and layer of acrylic paint.

Physical description

Hand puppet of the Punch character (part a) and his slapstick (part b), from a Punch and Judy puppet show. Head, hands and legs carved from wood. Head and hands painted beige. Character has protruding chin and long, hooked nose. Nose, cheeks and chin are rosy. Lips are red and eyes light blue. Small red dots in the corners of the eyes. Character is wearing blue eye shadow and has large black eyebrows. Dark brown lines on face to highlight nostrils, mouth, chin, furrowed brow, ears and wrinkles around eyes. Punch has white fuzzy hair, glued to his head, and is wearing a red, yellow and gold jester’s hat. Character is wearing a red tunic with a large, yellow ruffled collar and a frilled hemline. Collar has a line of dark red trim. Cuffs have a line of wavy yellow trim. Bottom edge of tunic has two rows of wavy gold trim. Two lines down front of tunic, with an oval in between them. Lines and oval made up of yellow and orange fringe decoration. Stuffed, oval-like shapes attached to the back and belly of Punch. Shapes are same colour as tunic. Tunic connects to a black fabric body for the puppet. Hanging in front of the black fabric are two wooden legs. Legs are painted bright yellow. Has short-heeled, red shoes with yellow and red ruffles on them. Metal ring along bottom edge of body opening. Operated by inserting hand inside the black fabric body to control the head and hands. The slap stick is made of two and a half grey-brown, thin slats of wood.