The origin of the Marotte is deeply rooted in the props used by entertainers of the medieval period. Court jesters employed the use of their fool’s bauble, usually in the form of a comic or grotesque head on a stick, adorned with ribbons and bells to add additional whimsy to their cavorting. These early simple forms became more elaborate over time. Jesters would often have the wooden heads for their Jester-sticks made in their own likeness to act as an alter-ego.
The world of puppetry adopted the jester-stick into a type of rod-puppet. Alexis Robert Philpott in his 1969 Dictionary of Puppetry defines a Marotte as “Originally the medieval fool’s stick or sceptre, a short rod topped with a small head…. The heads are generally fixed.” Calling them “Stiff, but charming puppets good for dancing choruses.” In puppetry the marotte developed to sometimes include moveable parts such as arms, mouths, etc. to increase the puppet’s animation. Similarly designed puppets were used by many world cultures.
By the 18th and 19th centuries the marotte had also become a musical amusement for adults and children. Early 19th century operas and ballets included characters which carried marottes. The ribbon and bell decorations gave way to the addition of a musical movement which played as the head was whirled around on its handle. German doll researchers Jurgen and Marrianne Cieslik reported that marottes, referred to as “party fancies,” became a popular accessory of the period in Germany, France and Italy with women carrying them at masked balls and as part of their carnival attire. The marotte was also sold as a child’s toy during this period with many manufacturers and retail catalogs including them among their offerings. The majority of French and German made marottes sought by collectors of antique dolls and toys were made between the 1860s and the mid-1910s.
In France makers which advertised marottes included:
Doléac et Cie
Hortier, Lindière & Lombart
Frederic Petite (patented one that induced a pivot mechanism and a crier)
Rabery et Delphieu
In Germany marottes (called marotten or schwenkelpuppen) were advertised by Sonneberg and Schalkau area companies such as:
Robert Carl Arm
Richard Metzler Jr.
Gottlieb Zinner & Sohn
During the decades of their popularity the marotte evolved from the early wooden or paper-mache heads, to those using bisque or celluloid heads. Many companies that made marottes bought heads from the large manufacturers of the day. Examples can be found with heads by Etienne Denamur, Armand Marseille, Limbach, Schoenau & Hoffmeister, Francois Gaultier, and Franz Schmidt, to name only a few.
Handles could be wood, ivory or metal and some variations included a whistle at the bottom of the handle. A wide range of models, hitting price points from less expensive to quite costly, were available. Costumes included silk and cotton sateen fabrics with metallic thread, lace, ribbon, and bell decoration. The musical mechanisms on the more expensive models even played 2 different tunes.
For the 21st century collector these charming Follys make wonderful props for our doll displays and many artisans and doll-making enthusiasts enjoy making modern versions of these toys, allowing the marotte to continue to bring a smile to our faces.
Jurgen and Marianne Cieslik German Doll Encyclopedia. Cumberland: Hobby House Press, 1985
Jurgen and Marianne Cieslik German Doll Studies. Annapolis: Gold Horse Publishing, 1999
Dorothy S., Elizabeth A., Evelyn J. Coleman The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Dolls Vol. I. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1968
Alexis Robert Philpott dictionary of Puppetry. Boston: Plays, Inc., 1969
Francois & Danielle Theimer The Encyclopedia of French Dolls. Annapolis: Gold Horse Publishing, 2003
Author – Linda Edward
We would love to hear from you Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org