Shadow play  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Shadow play or also known as shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment which uses flat articulated figures (shadow puppets) to create the impression of moving humans and other three-dimensional objects.

Shadow puppets are cut-out figures which are held between a source of light and a translucent screen or scrim. The cut-out shapes of the puppets sometimes include translucent color or other types of detailing. Various effects can be achieved by moving both the puppets and the light source. A talented puppeteer can make the figures appear to walk, dance, fight, nod and laugh.

Shadow play is popular in various cultures; at present more than 20 countries are known to have shadow show troupes. Shadow puppets have a long history in Indonesia, China, India, Greece, Nepal, Turkey, and are a popular form of entertainment for both children and adults in many other countries around the world.

France

The show began to spread to Europe in the mid-18th century, when French missionaries in China took it back to France in 1767 and put on performances in Paris and Marseilles, causing quite a stir. In time, the Ombres chinoises (French for "Chinese Shadows") with local modification and embellishment, became the Ombres françaises and struck root in the country.

The art was a popular entertainment in Paris during the 19th century, especially in the famous nightclub district of Montmartre. The tradition in France dates back to at least the mid-18th century when it was brought back by travellers to the Orient. The puppeteer François Dominique Séraphin first presented the spectacle in Paris in 1776, and in Versailles in 1781.

The cabaret Le Chat noir ("The Black Cat") produced a number of popular Ombres chinoises shows in the 1880s, organized by the artist Henri Rivière, using up to 20 assistants and a large, oxy-hydrogen back-lit performance area. The Ombres evolved into numerous theatrical productions and had a major influence on phantasmagoria.

Nowadays, several theatre companies in France are developing the practice of shadow puppets: Le Théâtre des Ombres, Le Théâtre du Petit Miroir, Le Théâtre Les Chaises, and La Loupiote.

In Italy, the Museum of Precinema collezione Minici Zotti in Padua houses a collection of 70 French shadow puppets, similar to those used in the cabaret Le Chat Noir, together with an original theatre and painted backdrops, as well as two magic lanterns for projecting scenes. So far, the shadow plays identified are La Marche a l'Etoile, La Sphinx, L'Âge d'or and Le Carneval de Venise, and it is supposed that the shadow puppets were created for the tournee in France or abroad at the end of the 19th century. This is an important donation by the Fondazione Centro Studi della Barbariga.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Shadow play" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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