planning my puppets for the online exhibition

It will come as no revelation to regular Artloggers that the film I love above all others is Jean Cocteau’s sublime La Belle et la Bête, as I’ve blogged extensively about it here in recent months. So It’s been in my mind for the longest time to make a pair of puppets to honour the film, though I couldn’t quite justify the time it would take had it been just for the fun of the challenge. But with the Artlog Exhibition of Puppets now planned, I’ve decided to to take the opportunity to make puppets of Beauty and her Beast, and to that end I’ve been trying out various designs.

One of things I wanted to avoid was a meticulous recreation of Josette Day and Jean Marais in their roles, with too much attention being poured into getting likenesses of the actors and copying every detail of their magnificent Christian Bérard costumes. These are to be puppets, not dolls.

I’m planning on Bunraku-style figures rather than the marionettes that had been my initial idea, as I prefer the movement qualities of the Japanese technique. As such the garments must conform to the technical requirements of Bunraku, and I’m designing them with that in mind, though referencing the strong outlines that gave the Bérard costumes their distinctive appearances: starched lace collar and over-sleeves trailing to the floor for the Beast, and roped-pearls and balloon-sleeves for Beauty.

I like too the proportions of Bunraku puppets, with their bulky bodies clothed in heavy silk kimonos, and their long arms and legs and relatively small heads, hands and feet.

Although I’m using colour expressively in in these first drawings, as befits puppetry, I may yet change to black and white to better reference the images of the film. (Cocteau noted in his diary that Josette Day’s dress for the scene where Beauty returned home in all the finery lavished on her by the Beast, was sky blue, and that on location the colour was magnificent against the white bed-linen hanging on the washing-lines, and with the black farmyard chickens dancing around her feet.)

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Above: Josette Day in the blue gown on location at Moulin de Touvois á Rochecorbon.

Undoubtedly the experience of making the puppet of Jane Seyes for The Mare’s Tale (see image above) was a spur to this idea. More than once when working on her face, I thought that she bore some resemblance to Day as Beauty, though that was probably just fanciful.

Below: these Bunraku puppets might almost be referencing the iconic image of Marais and Day in La Belle et la Bête, though with the positions reversed so that the woman is above. (I must confess to cheating. I rotated the photograph,)

11 thoughts on “planning my puppets for the online exhibition

  1. oh my, must now stretch beyond my initial concept of hand-puppets (may still go that route) but the options have broadened. I needed this push, gracias.
    Your sketches capture the spirit perfectly.

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