Hosted in the former Convent of Bernardas in downtown Lisbon, the Museu da Marioneta features a collection of puppets from around the world, with a special focus on Portuguese dolls. This is an excellent excursion if you’re entertaining a kid, but even adults will find plenty to love.
Walking up to the convent, we were intimidated, because the 17th-century building looks massive enough to contain every puppet ever made. But the collection inside is rather small. With around a dozen rooms, each dedicated to a different style or place-of-origin, there’s enough to see, but it won’t take you more than an hour to get through.
The permanent collection leads visitors on a tour through the world, starting in Asia with masks from Thailand and Indonesia, Vietnamese water puppets, scowling Chinese figures, and Turkish Karagoz shadow puppets. The exhibition then moves into Europe with well-known figures like Punch and Judy, and the Sicilian puppet operas. (I was surprised by how many of these Jürgen and I were recognizing from our travels around the world. At some point, we became real puppet connoisseurs!)
The next sections visit Africa, with masks and puppets are used in shamanistic rituals, and the Americas. We loved the Brazilian mamulengos, which represent regular people and poke fun at the hardships of life. Finally, the collection concludes with the puppets of Portugal, with a special section dedicated to modern puppets used in film and advertising.
We visited the Museu da Marioneta with a friend visiting from Germany, and her young daughter. It was fun to see the kid’s reactions to the various puppets. She liked many of them, but naturally preferred the more grotesque ones. Days later, just before their departure, I asked the girl what her favorite experience in Lisbon had been. She considered the question for awhile, and then said the Puppet Museum. Six-year-olds don’t lie, so that’s a pretty solid endorsement.
More Pictures and Video of the Marionette Museum