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The name of these special mechanical slides comes from the Italian word for animated puppets, like marionettes and jumping jacks. Other names for these rare slides are 'silhouette slides' or 'shadow slides', referring to the silhouette-like image they project.

In the year 1891 two patents were submitted that are connected with the invention and development of fantoccini slides. The Englishman George Frederick Lutticke granted a patent for magic lantern slides using joined cut-out silhouette figures. Hardly a month later the British photographer William Cheffins took out a patent for lantern slides incorporating puppets, transparent jointed figures, operated by slender rods, 'so that they can be caused to move as in the action of walking, running, boxing fencing, gesticulating, or performing other movements.'

The translucent or opaque figures were made of mica, tin or thin brass and mounted in wooden frames, operated by levers and thin rods, or cams and worm gears. The most popular example of this genre is the monkey slide. The monkey can perform an almost infinite number of positions at the turn of the handle. Others show limber acrobats. Sometimes a painted background glass was added to provide the artists a stage.
Fantoccini Slides
Mechanical Silhouette Slides - Shadow Slides
One of the most familiar examples: the tumbling monkey.

The monkey slide

The mahogany frame measures 7" x 4.5 "  (18 x 11.4 cm). It's made in England in the 1890's.

This slide projects the silhouette of the brass somersaulting monkey which tumbles when you turn the handle at the side.


Two Monkeys
This British magic lantern silhouette slide measures 7 by 4.25 by 0.6 inches. The monkeys perform their tricks on the trapeze when you rotate the handle.



Extremely rare English mid nineteenth century mechanical Magic Lantern slide. This slide projects silhouettes of a cock fight.

The front cover is removed so that you can see the mechanism. Each cockerel is linked to a brass rod and is moved by its own lever. They are also joined by the beaks. The movements are impressive and varied. The cockerels are made of thin painted tin.


The dancer
Photos: ©Pierre Patau, antiquetoysandgames.com.
On the third picture the cover is removed so that you can see the mechanism.

A very rare English fantoccini slide from the 3rd quarter of the 19th century.

It consists of a deep wooden frame with hand painted music hall stage on one side and an animated brass dancing man sandwiched between two glass panels. The body of the dancer is fixed to the glass by its middle and the articulated legs are linked to 2 separate brass "pulls" which animate our dancer, a beautiful effect as the figure is projected as a silhouette onto the screen.

18 cm x 11.5 cm or about 7" x 4 1/2".


Rare fantoccini slide showing the silhouette of a tomcat, set against a hand painted background. The slide has two levers which operate a complex action of waggling its ears and tail. The slide measures 7 "x 4.5" (c. 18 x 11.5 cm).
The pelican

Perfect example of a magic lantern slide combining a slipping mechanism and a brass fantoccini mechanism, operated by means of a lever.

A native African woman is unsuspecting watching a pelican and jumps back in terror when it suddenly opens its bill to let a baby out. The background and figure on the slipping glass are hand painted; the baby and upper part of the bill are cut out of thin brass and are operated by a lever. Wonderful!

17.7 cm x 11 cm or 7" x 4 1/4"; 2 cm or 3/4" thick.

Photos: ©Pierre Patau, antiquetoysandgames.com.
Two Geese
Two metal levers operate the two geese independently while they fight over a morsel of food held by both their beaks. There is a glass screen at each side of the metal hinged image. One of the glasses has a painted curtain.

Man and Donkey
The next slide is obvious made by the same manufacturer: same design, same theatre curtain, same word 'REGISTRED' impressed in the wood of the frame.

Mechanical silhouette slide depicting a farmer riding a cart that is drawn along by a mule. By means of two brass handles one can move the man and the mule separately. The frame measures 7 inches long by 4 inches tall by about 5/8 of an inch thick (c. 18 x 10 x 1.6 cm).


Will your food cost you more?
And then another fantoccini slide with the same blue theatre curtains! The dimensions of the wooden frame are 17.5 x 10 cm (7" x 4"). Under the curtain there is a text, the exact meaning of which escapes me. Behind the glass are a copper parrot and a young man with a bowl in his hands that are equipped with rods with which they can be animated. The parrot's beak opens and closes as the male moves his head back and lifts the bowl.




A mechanical magic lantern slide showing an acrobat turning somersaults at the horizontal bar. The acrobat is joined and made of black paper. His hands are glued to the spindle and he is operated by a brass handle that is linked to the moving glass by a thread. At the background a painted stage.
A paper label at the mahogany frame says: MILLIKIN & LAWLEY, 165, STRAND, LONDON.
The Acrobat


Man and crocodile.
The head of the crocodile is made of thin brass. The jaws open and close when the lever is moved. Opposite him sits a man who is also made of thin messing and moves back and forth when the other lever is moved. The dimensions are approximately 18 x 11.4 cm.
Julia is zo schoon - My Julia is a belle
Finally a modern example of a fantoccini slide. In the period from 1997-2000 some Dutch visual artists produced new, present-day works to be used in magic lantern shows. The project was called Diascoop.

Visual artist Ida Lohman (Utrecht, 6 juli 1962 - Amsterdam, 25 september 2007) created this lively puppet. She copied a photograph to a transparency, the limbs were joined to the trunk and provided with a thin thread. Pulling the strings makes Julia dance. The puppet is c. 7 cm tall; the frame measures 11,5 cm. This work is titled: 'Julia is zo schoon' (My Julia is a belle) after a well-known Dutch camper song. For the projection of Julia two magic lanterns were used to obtain a fast change-over.

The humorous song was sung by the operators at the top of their voices. Julia became more and more ugly with every couplet but had again and again a cheerful dance during the refrain. The end of the story is rather sad: the girl is exposed in a museum after her death.
This is my attempt to translate the song in English:

My Julia is a belle, she's looking like a fairy
Her head is like a bulb; her legs are crooked and hairy
Julia, Julia, Ju-li-a
Julia, Julia, Ju-li-a
Julia, Julia, Ju-li-a, my Julia is just fine.

My Julia is a belle, she has a well-groomed hair-style
The front is withered grass, the rest bald as a roof tile
My Julia is a belle, her lips are sweet as fudges
They taste of curly kale, covered with dark brown smudges
My Julia is a belle, her eyes are sparkling fire-flies
One is of opal glass, they both are gazing crosswise
My Julia is a belle, her breasts are soft and mellow
The left one is dark blue, the other lemon-yellow

(and so the song continues, until the last couplet:)
Now Julia is dead, laid out in a museum
of curiosities; stuffed with straw and petroleum
Julia, Julia, Ju-li-a
Julia, Julia, Ju-li-a
Julia, Julia, Ju-li-a, my Julia is just fine.
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Last update: 03-04-2024.
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