personne

Brioché

Country

France

Surname

Brioché

Birth

France (17th Century)

Death

France (18th Century)

Stage name of a famous French family of puppeteers. Due to a lack of written records, there is still some doubt about the biography of the first Datelin, the real name of this dynasty of travelling showmen, teeth pullers, musicians, and rope dancers that attracted the attention of Parisian bystanders, and illustrious men, through their very popular puppet shows. Datelin’s first name was probably Pierre (? – 1671) and he was most likely an exceptional puppet manipulator. He took the pseudonym of Brioché that he passed on to five generations of descendants. A great confusion reigns in his family lineage among his successors. The only verifiable record is the marriage of his daughter, Marguerite, to the puppeteer Jean-Baptiste Archambault.

Jean (perhaps Pierre’s grandson) brought fame to the family name by being the first to truly emerge from anonymity. Contrary to what has long been conveyed, latest research does not prove him to be an Italian emigrant in France (Giovanni Briocci), but a member of the Datelin family. Jean set up his trestle tables at the Nesle Gate, at the south end of the Pont-Neuf, where he acquired a great reputation as early as 1649. His puppets were manipulated by a rod in the head and with strings (see Rod Marionette). His greatest contribution is the physical and psychological transformation of Pulcinella from the Italian commedia dell’arte. With a more accentuated nose and chin, an additional hump in the front, and a Henri IV Gascon officer’s outfit, the French Polichinelle was born in Jean’s hands. Nothing has been saved from his repertoire, probably full of witticism and Gallic bawdiness, but there are records of his invitation by Louis XIV to play for the Dauphin at Saint-Germain-en-Laye for three months in 1669. The facetiousness of his monkey, Fagotin, dressed from head to toe, also contributed greatly to his reputation. The writer Cyrano de Bergerac confused the monkey with a footman, and, believing himself attacked, killed the animal. The name Fagotin has long been used for monkeys of entertainers.

François (1620-1681), called Fanchon, probably Jean’s son, also worked near the Pont-Neuf and gained an even greater popularity. However, he kept his side practice of teeth pulling, just as all the other less famous Brioché descendants did until the 18th century.

(See France, Itinerant Troupes, Travelling Puppeteers.)