Moorish Hand Puppet

Description (Brief)
This hand puppet was created by Bill Baird* between 1926-1927 for Miquel Varell. This hand carved and painted wooden figure with its dark Moorish features sports a red and black plaid costume withj a beaded collar and a red fez. The puppet has no body and his hands are made of cloth. . The face, with its exaggerated facial features , is vibrantly painted and is a wonderful example of Baird's early work. . .
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 specifications. Sarg recomended his youg apprentice, Bill Baird to create the pupppets 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 SmithsonianMiqueleum in 1993.
Currently not on view
Date made
Baird, Bil
Varell, Miquel V.
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)
overall: 54 cm x 34 cm; 21 1/4 in x 13 3/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Lia V. Dingfelder
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Entertainment
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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