The Italian word “pupazzo” simply means a doll or puppet and is used in the same way as “pupo”, from which derives the English “puppet”. It tended to be used in Rome and further south. Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni in the 1690s and early 1700s wrote libretti for operas that were performed with puppets in his private puppet theatre. A contemporary writer refers to his puppets as “popazzi”. The word “pupazzo” (plural “pupazzi”) is still used in Italian today but is not tied to any one specific genre.

The term was picked up in France by Louis Lemercier de Neuville (1830-1918) who created his own versions of pupazzi by firstly cutting out caricatures by Étienne Carjat (1828-1906) from the newspaper Le Boulevard. He mounted these on pieces of cigar box and then cut out arms which he jointed and operated by means of concealed strings. Over thirty years Lemercier de Neuville performed 106 of his own plays and manufactured 274 flat pupazzi. Later he also used the term pupazzi when he came to make three-dimensional glove puppets and black shadow figures.


  • Jurkowski, Henryk. History of European Puppet Theatre. Vol. I. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996.