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. (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 Policeman character, from a Punch and Judy puppet show. Head and hands carved from wood. Components painted beige. Character has large rounded nose and cheeks. Nose, cheeks and chin are rosy. Lips are light pink and eyes are light blue. Small red dots in the corners of the eyes. Character has black eyebrows and a dark brown mustache. Dark brown lines on face highlight nostrils, mouth, chin, ears, eyelids and under eye area. The Policeman has a ring of black, fuzzy hair glued around his head and is wearing a dark blue police helmet. Helmet has a silver badge on the front and a silver spike on top. Character is wearing a silver-buttoned, dark blue uniform jacket, with two chest pockets. Rest of fabric body is a matching dark blue. Metal ring along bottom edge of body opening. Operated by inserting hand inside the body of the puppet to control the head and hands.