Son of George Sand and Baron Casimir Dudevant, Maurice Sand was a student of Eugene Delacroix from whom he learned drawing and painting. He also studied literature and science, manifesting an interest in puppetry by the age of 24. At first he simply wished to entertain small groups of his mother’s friends who visited the Nohant chateau where the family lived, manipulating and improvising with crude figurines within a makeshift staging (a chair, a drawing on cardboard, a towel), thereby giving birth to a lifelong passion. His performances became a veritable magnet for a growing audience, where representatives of high society mixed with the delighted villagers who were invited more and more often.
The Nohant theatre was set up in a wing of the family chateau, later transformed into a small auditorium. Maurice Sand progressively improved his castelet techniques, and created several hundred ever more sophisticated glove puppets, putting his own signature to a number of plays (parodies and adaptations) that he would present alternately with improvisations. He invented ingenious systems (spring rods, lighting mechanisms, mobile settings) and was inspired by the commedia characters of Italian tradition. He also improved the manipulation of his glove puppets by replacing the hand of the manipulator with rods, a system that allowed him to put into play a dozen puppets simultaneously. At the same time he illustrated his mother’s novels, as well as authoring Masques et bouffons (Masks and Buffoons, 1860), a major work dedicated to the commedia dell’arte.
The Nohant audiences dispersed after 1872, but Maurice Sand continued his work, with his mother’s collaboration, inventing “extras”, silent characters that were stuffed figures fixed in the wings on sliding batons which moved them across the stage. After 1880, he remained at his new home in Passy, where, in 1858, he created the Théâtre des Amis (the Company of Friends). By then he had four hundred puppets and many sets. He gave regular performances until his death nine years later, leaving behind the book which was the manifesto of his passion: Le Théâtre des marionnettes, 1890.