SALZBURG, AUSTRIA — What is it about puppets that intrigue us, scare us and maybe catch us off a little off guard? I’ve always had a fascination with them, but somewhat in the way a person likes scary movies. Sort of a love-hate relationship. Marionettes can be so enchanting, but I’ve always found them a bit disconcerting. I remember as a child seeing a marionette production of Pinocchio and being a little traumatized when Pinocchio got turned into a donkey. It sure made a lasting impression on me and thus is perhaps the start of my fascination with them.
On a visit to Salzburg last summer, I found this small but enchanting museum called Welt Der Marionetten (World of String Puppets) up in the 11th century Fortress Hohensalzburg that overlooks this famous Austrian city well-known for being the birthplace of Mozart. The city is not as well known for this small museum that is located in the dark Prince’s cellar in this huge medieval castle, but I highly recommend it if you like string puppets. Being located in a cellar, it’s a bit of a dark and creepy venue, but there is something truly magical about the location combined with these quite expressive marionettes that make it perfect for the mysterious art of puppetry.
The Man Behind the Marionettes
The facial expressions of these historical marionettes so enchanted me and are so human and lifelike that I thought people would enjoy a glimpse into the talent of the Austrian artist, Professor Herman Aicher (1902-1977), whose family created all of these marionettes. Here is some information about him and his talented family from the Ballard Institute and Museum in Connecticut:
“Professor Hermann Aicher, perhaps the foremost Austrian Puppeteer, watched his father, Professor Anton Aicher, create and perform elaborate puppet shows from the early age of ten. The Aicher family became infamous for their productions, even though they were modestly performed in their home. The family eventually created the Aicher Family Theatre in 1913. Hermann Aicher took up the puppetry tradition created by his father and headed their theater. His wife and daughters all pitched in to sustain a troupe that delighted adults and children alike, with their repertoire of over 150 operas, play and fairy tales.
The creation of these puppets involved the whole family; while the girls created the costumes, Hermann molded the bodies, and various artistic talents of the region were enlisted to create the faces so that each puppet would have a distinct image and personality all it’s own. Aicher believed the marionette is an abstraction of the living actor. The puppet, being ideal rather than flesh and blood, provides the marionette with an increased power of illusion. The precise and delicate control system above the marionette combines genius and decades of experience: it is the head, heart and soul of the marionette. The creative will of the manipulator flows through these controls, into the puppet, and brings forth life.”
The Power of Illusion
I love the idea that the marionette is “an abstraction of the living actor” but “an ideal representation” giving them the “increased power of illusion.” Perhaps that is why I (and many others) have always been so intrigued with them. Below are the photos I took of these incredible and historical marionettes. I hope if you visit the beautiful city of Salzburg that you visit this small but intriguing museum.
Below are some photos from the museum. The first photo is the entrance to the museum in the Hohensalzburg castle followed by some of the magnificent marionettes and a photo of the creator of these puppets as well.
Peasant Revolt of 1525
One of the exhibits in the museum was the Peasant Revolt of 1525, which the photos below are from. The expressions on these puppets and the details of their physiognomy is incredible to see.
A Photo of the Creator of the Marionettes
Entrance to the puppet museum is included with your ticket to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Here are the opening hours for 2022:
January-April*: 9:30 am-5 pm
May-September: 9 am-8 pm (Museums, princes’ chambers, magic theater 9 am- 7 pm)
October-December*: 9:30 am-5 pm
*Easter and Advent weekends: 9:30 am-6 pm
Dec. 24: 9:30 am-2 pm (last admission 2 pm)
Guided tours for groups (10 persons or more) by prior arrangement (2-3 weeks in advance).
July, August: 30-minute Quicktour, daily 9 am in German and 7 pm in English.
The cost to enter the fortress is:
Incl. ascent and descent by Fortress funicular
Fortress area: courtyards, bastions, chapel, Panorama tour, Fortress museum, Rainer Regimental Museum, Marionette Museum, armoury house
Adults € 13.30
Children (6-14 years) € 7.60
Families € 33.60