female hand puppet made by Bil Baird apprentice of Tony Sarg, for puppeteer Miquel V. Varell

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Description (Brief)
This female carved wooden hand puppet with a jaunty air was created by Bil Baird sometime around 1927-1928 for Miquel Varell. She has strong facial features that have been emphasized with brightly painted red lips and shocking blue eye shadow. Her gaudy clothing suggest a bohemian style and she is wearing a golden yellow blouse under an orange vest with a gathered brown print cotton skirt with a neck scarf. A black and gold tam covers her head, and she is wearing dangle earrings and green high heels. Resembling a French coquette she may be modeled after Gertrude Stein. A metal hanging hook and a sleeve or short skirt is attached to the back of the figure used for the puppeteers hand. Her exaggerated and detailed features are Bill Baird's signature style.
Originally from Budapest, Hungary, Varell immigrated to the United States after World War I in search of a better life. Despite a lack of any formal training in the theater, Varell's life long love of puppetry inspired him to establish a puppet company based on a European style Grand Guignol (Punch and Judy) traveling show. But Varell needed someone to create the puppets based on his own specifications. He approached Tony Sarg, his friend and well known puppeteer, to find someone who could create the puppets according to his specification. Sarg recommended his young apprentice Bill Baird to create a cast of 12 to 15 puppets for Varell's theater.
(For information on Baird see 1980.0315; Slugger Ryan)
Using the puppets provided by Baird , Varell constructed his own portable theater including stage sets, and performed at schools, clubs and children's parties. Sadly, his career was short lived. The European style of puppetry, based on expression and moment, was replaced with talking puppets and Varell spoke only broken English.
Varell kept only eight of the original puppets and sold the rest along with his portable theater. This group of eight puppets passed on to his daughter who kindly donated them to the Smithsonian in 1993.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1927-1928
user
Varell, Miquel V.
maker
Baird, Bill
place made
United States: New York, New York
Associated Place
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
fabric (overall material)
metal (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 36 cm x 28 cm; 14 3/16 in x 11 in
ID Number
1993.0168.02
accession number
1993.0168
catalog number
1993.0168.02
Credit Line
Lia V. Dingfelder
subject
Puppetry
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Entertainment
Puppets
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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