Colección Lucia Contreras

- SPAIN -

In Spain there were two different periods of note regarding toy theatres. The common feature is that they both took place in Barcelona and, like in other European cases, the publishers also worked in the field of schoolbooks. We are referring to Paluzie and Seix Barral. In all fairness, we must also mention Joan Llorens and Antoni Bosch who, despite the fact that they did not have the relevance of the former two, they were some of the first printers to introduce and publish sheets for shadow theatre in Catalonia, even though they copied French artists at first.

By 1865, Esteve Paluzie, a prestigious publisher and pedagogue, was already aware of the European trend. His business, the “Estampería económica Paluzie Imprenta Elzevirana,” focused on publishing sheets of cut-outs that portrayed popular images, with a pronounced Catalan air, but his production of stage fronts, theatre sets and characters increased little by little until it became quite vast.

The similarities between his production and the already famous “Imagerie Pellerin” of Epinal are numerous, ranging from the method for numbering and storing the sheets to the absence of texts, and even to the suspicious similarity of their set designs. Comparisons are odious, but a mere glance is enough to assure that many of the sheets printed by these two publishers are identical. Was it an inspiration or a copy? Who was copying who? To find the answer, all we have to do is look at the dates. In any case, Paluzie, as it can be seen in this collection, is one of our favourites.

 

Estamperia Paluzie

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“TEATRO ESPAÑOL” PALUZIE


The famous Catalan stampede, like other European publishers, printed since 1865 and well into the twentieth century, sheets of paper with customs scenes, religious prints and military battalions. Fashion's new toy made Esteve Paluzie also edited proscenium theater, decorated and characters that children cut and paste on wood.
This theatre of Paluzie carefully mounted on cardboard by the first owner, like the Victorian theatres, has orchestra in the pit and bourgeois public in the proscenium. Scenery of rustic house.


Year: 1901
Provenance: Spain

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“TEATRO MODERNO” PALUZIE

 


The skillful amateur who built this little theatre, devised guidelines and mechanisms to move the characters. The decor is a mountainous landscape.


Editor: Estampería Económica Paluzie. Imprenta Elzeviriana.
Year: 1920
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

Seix i Barral Graphic Industries

barralAlready in the 20th century, the last revolution was produced by the publishing house “Industrias gráficas Seix i Barral,” which in 1915, thanks to its own efforts, took over the market of toy theatres in Spain. The Catalonian “teatrins” started to be known in our country as “teatros de papel” (paper theatres) and, later on, thanks to Seix i Barral, the phrase “Teatro de los Niños” (children’s theatre, the commercial name given to their product) became a popular term. The first one of their theatres, the cut-out “Modelo B,” remained faithful in form to the central-European models. However, that same year they published the more luxurious Modelo BB, which came in a box, with the stage front and the curtains already punched out and ready to be assembled.

The “Children’s Theatres” are, without doubt, the best of the “modern school.” They were signed by C.B. Nualart, who was no other than Carlos Barral i Nualart, the father of the Barral brothers, and he took exquisite care in the design and in all the details.

The Barral brothers produced up to 10 different models of stage fronts or proscenia, as well as many classical plays that included texts, characters and striking sceneries. They published 23 plays that could be used with any of the firm’s theatres.

Its system of boxes and riggings allowed one to mount several backdrops for each act, thus creating extremely beautiful and complex theatre effects that could match the best set designs of any real theatre. They also devised a system with cut-out areas on the scenery backdrops that were fitted with coloured translucent paper which, when properly lit, created magical atmospheres and a spatial depth that had never before been achieved.

The quality of the sceneries and theatres made by Seix Barral (which they patented) gave the firm world-wide recognition, making this publishing house into the artistic point of reference in the field of toy theatres. They even printed editions for the very demanding British market and, although England was the birthplace of these toys, customers were impressed by the “Children’s Theatre.” Asides from their quality, there was a tremendous difference between the melodramas that were still being printed in Britain (since the Victorian era of the “Juvenile Drama”) and the fantastic sceneries made by the Catalonian firm, which depicted Art Deco lounges, underwater landscapes and even the deck of a battleship.

In 1917, with the occasion of the “3rd Toy Exposition” of the Agrupación de Fabricantes (manufacturers association), Seix i Barral’s “Children’s Theatre” was given the jury’s award for the toy with the best artistic qualities.

The “Children’s Theatre” was manufactured until 1953 and is still a valuable item for collectors all over the world.

Teatro

TEATRO DE LOS NIÑOS: Modelo BB


In 1915 goes on sale the first theater of this prestigious editorial, the Model B. It was edited in a traditional style with a notebook form to trim. That same year the publisher markets this proscenium, the first of the series that would provide them fame and recognition. This is one of the simplest models of the house.


Work: The Merchant of Venice.
Year: 1915
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

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Under the generic name of "The Theatre of children" the editing house of brothers Barral released 10 models of mouths and 23 classic works that included two librettos for narrators, characters and fabulous scenery. This toy crossed borders and became a reference point for artistic excellence in the field of paper theaters. All wore their theaters print the legend "Patent CB Nualart" second surname of the brothers.

 

The envelope containing each of the works was also intended to be used included printed tickets for assigning the seats, a plank to announce the representation of the day with space to write even a company name, instructions for mounting drama and arrange the scenery and advertising of other products of the company.

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TEATRO DE LOS NIÑOS: MODELO CC


This is the theater of my father and his sister (Damian and Maruja Contreras Ortiz), the origin of my collection, my most prized piece. The proscenium is big and stylish and is made of cardboard with classic low-relief .


Work: La estrella de los Reyes Magos.
Year: 1915
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

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TEATRO DE LOS NIÑOS: MODELO M



This splendid facade with three pairs of columns in relief is one of the most luxurious of the manufacturer, which of course also took into account the upper classes of first-century in Spain.


Work: Sancho Panza el gobernador.
Year: 1918
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

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TEATRO DE LOS NIÑOS: MODELO E



This model is a good example of the quality of the artists who worked in the company. The artist has created in this classical facade a game of light and shadow that has the effect of volumes where there is none. The decor of the seabed in the works for The Mother is undoubtedly the most spectacular production of the publisher.

 

Work: The Mother
Year: 1935
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

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TEATRO DE LOS NIÑOS: MODELO S



A splendid theater in which increases the surface of the facade with a clear neoclassical style. Seix Barral edited decorated compounds of several areas with translucent curtains that allowed, properly illuminated, to create very complex theatrical effects.

 

Work: Travellers to the train.
Year: 1949
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

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TEATRO DE LOS NIÑOS: MODELO S/N



This model is a smaller and simpler than the rest. It was popularly known as "the angels'one." The end of an era of paper theaters was already very close.


Year: 1951
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

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TEATRO DE LOS NIÑOS: MODELO H

 

1953 was the year that recent theatres of Seix Barra were editedl, the Model S and H. This ends 40-year history of the paper theaters in our country.
This proscenium reminds much to the Model S although, as farewell, Seix Barral again offer a theater with different volume levels in this luxurious facade full of marbles and drapes. Despite being the most modern model, this theater is very hard to find: perhaps because the interest in these toys began to decrease and the print run was shorter.


Year: 1953
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

 

texts

Collection of theater pieces of C.B Nualart Seix i Barral

La vuelta al hogar  
Los lobos del mar  
La fierecilla domada  
La estrella de los reyes magos  
Sancho panza gobernador   
El alma de las ruinas  
El hacha maravillosa  
La madre
La esposa desconsolada  
El pastorcillo
Caperucita azul
La ciencia más que el poder
El mercader de venecia
El tesoro del rajá
Violeta

Barsal

teatro

TEATRO INFANTIL BARSAL

(Mouth of the Theatre: Estudio Sanzá)

As we can see, there is a huge difference in terms of quality and style between the proscenium and the sets and characters because the publisher Barsal produced many more envelopes with Theatre works properly. Unfortunately, I have not yet achieved the original facade, almost impossible to find. Given that the production of works was very large, this modest proscenium (which detract completely the quality of curtains which houses) was commissioned to study Sanzá.
Works: El rey de los gnomos, El castillo maldito, El pirata negro, La bruja del cascabel. The play which is missing to complete the collection is The fairy of the sea, which is also difficult to find because it was delivered along with the original facade.


Editor: Barsal (Barguño y Salvat)
Year: 1930
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

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TEATRO MINIATURA BARSAL

 



Very little Theater in cardboard with a proscenium reminding the theaters of glove puppets or guiñol. The theater was sold with all the necessary elements for representation: curtain facade proscenium, 10 and 20 decorated figures with 4 to handle media.


Editor: Barsal (Barguñó y Salvat)
Year: 1930
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

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Sirvent

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TEATRO INFANTIL ANIMADO



This manufacturer tried to compete with Catalan and Seix Barral and commissioned the painter Enrique Estela Anton decorated with a more modernist aesthetics. He introduced an interesting novelty: the articulation in the characters to make them more mobility and realism.
The decorations belong to the work of Perrault Pulgardito boots or seven leagues (and not Pulgarcito as we say now).


Editor: Creaciones B. Sirven
Year: 1939
Provenance: Barcelona, Spain.

 

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Lithography and other pieces on paper: Estamperia Paluzie (proscenium, side wings, backgrounds and characters)

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All images and texts© 2008 LUCIA CONTRERAS FLORES.