A Marvellous Group of Early 20thC English Folk Art Punch & Judy Puppets


Origin: English
Period: Early Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1915-30
Example Length: 33 inches (Punch)
Other measurements available on request

Used by a professional in the West Country in the early twentieth century, this charming group of nine puppets include Punch and Judy, with Judge, Joey the Clown, Baby, Jack Ketch, Two Monkeys and Crocodile, with hand carved and painted wooden heads and hands (Punch also with wooden feet), with fur hair, lace and cloth fabric clothing.

The condition of the puppets is generally good, there are some very old repairs (for example to the long noses! of Punch and Judy) but there are no concerns about the stability of the wood, there are no signs of infestation and the hair and fabric only have minor losses. The clothing has general discoloration consummate with age but the colours still remain vibrant.

With his dastardly grin and hooked nose, Mr Punch is the most famous puppet of all time. From roots in seventeenth century Italy, Punch and his chums were first seen in England when Charles II, came to the throne and more relaxed times resumed after the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Revelry was once more in fashion and the public's taste was all for amusement and novelty, paving the way for the clowning Mr Punch to cackle all the way into the twenty first century.

These rare puppets could be used to entertain audiences once again, or displayed in a creative way, preserving and, delighting in, a wonderful folk art. Pieces of folk art are ephemeral, simple, and often crude, though they are always enchanting. They were made by unskilled people, usually provincially, for everyday use and enjoyment, and are naively decorated, and made of basic materials. Folk art provides an excellent insight into the everyday life of ordinary people in times of old, and for that reason we love it.  

Punch and Judy has a long and colourful history, much of the appeal, lying in the skill of the performer: part story teller, puppeteer and comedian, but essentially an entertainer. These splendid puppets represent both the entertainer’s art form and folk art itself, in its truest and purest form, making for a spectacular celebration of the eccentricity of British visual culture.