The Monticelli family, of Cremonese-Piedmontese origin, boasts a long dynasty of theatrical performers, starting with its founder Ariodante, who lived in the second half of the nineteenth century. A tradition that has continued uninterruptedly for five generations, interpreter of Italian figure theatre and custodian of marvellous props created by its craftsmen.
The work of recovering and preserving the family’s rich heritage (about 500 pieces) began in 1980, following the retirement of the famous puppeteer Cavalier Otello Monticelli. The first museum was housed in the former Rinascita hall in 1984. Then, the collection was transferred to the Mariani Cinema Theatre and, finally, since 2005, it has had its permanent home in the newborn Casa delle Marionette (House of Puppets), in the heart of the city.
The collection has now become a small museum exhibiting 63 puppets, 150 puppet shows, 132 stage sets, 130 handwritten scripts and many other original promotional materials to the public.
Among the oldest pieces is the skeleton puppet, made in 1850 by Oreste Picchi. The Picchi brothers also made some special puppets known as “divisionist” puppets, because they are divided into five parts. The Fagiolino and Sandrone puppets, typical early twentieth-century masks from Emilia, are highly prized by collectors.
The Casa delle Marionette is not limited to its museum function: set out on two floors, it produces theatre performances for adults and children and numerous other artistic and cultural activities, such as workshops for the construction of puppets and marionettes and training courses for educators and teachers.
The Casa delle Marionette is open every morning for schools and groups by appointment and also has a central square where performances and meetings are held.