French novelist, art critic, and journalist. A defender of Realism, Louis Edmond Duranty became famous with his novel Le Malheur d’Henriette Gérard (The Misfortune of Henriette Gérard, 1860) and La Cause du beau Guillaume (The Cause of Handsome Guillaume, 1862). In the realm of painting, he encouraged his friends Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, and especially Edgar Degas. He also developed a passion for puppets to the point of obtaining the concession for a puppet booth (French: castelet) in the Jardin des Tuileries in 1861. With the help of his set designer and painter friends, Duranty built the theatre, participated in the creation of the characters, had costumes and decors made, and for three years interpreted, himself, a very colourful repertoire, collected for the first time from the oral tradition, that he adapted and sometimes even wrote. Polichinelle, Pierrot, la mère Gigogne (Mother Ginger) and their archetype comrades acquired from his pen an authentic and cruel verve remarkably well written.
Duranty’s plays were published the year of his death, under the title of Théâtre des marionnettes. Répertoire Guignol du XIX è siècle recueilli par Duranty (Puppet Theatre. The 19th Century Guignol Repertoire Compiled by Duranty. Partially reprinted: Actes Sud, Collection Babel, 1995). The most famous of his plays are: Polichinelle précepteur (Punch Tax Collector), Les Voisines (The Women Neighbours), La Malle de Berlingue (The Berlingue Trunk), Pierrot et le Pâtissier (Pierrot and the Pastry Chef), Le Tonneau (The Barrel), Polichinelle retiré du monde (Punch Retired from the World), and Le Revenant (The Ghost). These plays continue to be performed to this day.