In the Czech Republic, and particularly in Prague itself, a very unique craft, not often practiced elsewhere, has become a cultural staple— marionette making.
The history of Czech puppetry is a long one, but it is one that is most well encapsulated by the Museum of Puppet Art in Prague. Located in a baroque space on Mikulandska street, this museum features an extensive collection of ornate marionettes, dating back to the 1800s. Additionally, the museum has culturally important Czech hallmarks such as wine and cheese tastings paired with various European and Czech films.
Due to capacity reasons, the museum is open only to reservations, but this seldom deters guests, as the museum presents a detailed and intimate look at Czech puppetry as an art form. The museum’s capacity is a mere fifteen attendees, due to it being run by a small team. However, the passion that team shows for puppetry is quite evident to anyone who is able to secure a reservation.
Katarina Hladik, team member and one of the curators of the museum, says that she’s been really encouraged by the reception displayed by visitors.
“The museum has been really popular with both locals and tourists,” Hladik said. “Making marionettes is a big part of Czech culture that isn’t really appreciated much, especially by people unfamiliar with our country. I’m glad to be able to help spread this part of our culture.”
Though marionette making is culturally significant in the historical aspect, it is still practiced today and has evolved with the times. Located just across the river from the old town square, the Center for Contemporary Puppetry makes marionettes with both old and new techniques.
This workshop, one of the most well-known in the entire Czech Republic, hand-makes marionettes and sells them to tourists and locals. Additionally, it uses modern techniques like 3D printing to create particularly light marionettes for use in certain movies. One would notice puppets from movies like “Kung Fu panda” in the shop amongst the various hand-crafted representations of both original characters and characters from traditional folklore.
Though somewhat esoteric, marionette making remains a widely beloved, unique and active art form tying Prague and the Czech Republic to their cultural heritage.
Written by Gwen Frymier
Videos by Gwen Frymier
Featured image courtesy of puppetsinprague.eu
Edited by Ciera Noe