Puppeteer, itinerant actor and director of an Austrian company active in Austria and Germany. Joseph Anton Stranitzky began his career as an independent “pulcinella player”, appearing in Burghausen in 1698, in Augsbourg in 1699 and 1702, as well as in Munich (1699). He then teamed up with another travelling puppeteer, his friend Johann Baptist Hilverding (around 1670 or 1677-1721). We find him on the Neun Markt (New Market) Square in 1708 and then, having performed before the court of Charles VI, he was granted the precious Imperial licence to perform. But he hesitated in taking this path because he was, at the same time, continuing his studies and obtained a degree in dentistry at the University of Vienna, a profession he had illegally begun to practise during his tours with Hilverding who, himself, was a street “optician”.
Stranitzky’s name is especially attached to the figure of Hanswurst, for which he created a new version. Possibly inspired by an old puppet, he incarnated in flesh and bone this colourful character that proved to be very popular with Austrian audiences. This encouraged Stranitzky to rent a theatre hall, the Kärtnertortheater, where he presented a variety of acts. Most came from the Italian tradition, but it was his character, Hanswurst, that became the prime attraction of his shows.
Initially, this character represented a farmer or artisan or even a craftsman butcher. “He” sported a short beard with his hair in a quiff, and was dressed in a red jacket decorated with green patches, a floppy-collared shirt and baggy trousers with red patches, reminiscent of the pantaloons worn by Harlequin (see Arlecchino). The character, baton in hand, spoke directly to the audience, sharing with them what he had heard and seen during his travels. Later, the character would embody the unruly and ironic servant who worked for a noble family.
Deeply attached to his character, Stranitzky did all he could to ensure his presence for posterity. As a first step he solemnly handed him over, in 1720, to Gottfried Prehauser (1699-1769) by offering him his Narrenpritsche (fool’s marotte).
We do not know exactly when the puppet was created, but it seems likely that Joseph Anton Stranitzky – who, along with his work as an actor at the Kärtnertortheater, also practised as a puppeteer during Carnival – created the character and performed with him during the same period.