"Puppet doctor" and his studio in Paris
Near this curious atelier-shop on the Parisian street of Parmentier it was simply impossible not to stop. A bright yellow display case, behind the glass of which are piled up mountains of broken old dolls, toys and all kinds of "spare parts" - pens, legs. Newspaper clippings, fragments of old letters.
"Old dolls, toys and teddy bears are being repaired here," read the inscriptions at the entrance.
The first time we saw this puppet shop was Henri Launay on a traditionally French weekend - Monday, but then we specially returned on Tuesday to go inside and see the owner. Which, judging by the newspaper clippings and, by the way, a completely informative site, is now almost 90 (!) Years old.
Honestly, the acquaintance with the master Henri and his shop in many ways “broke the patterns” that we have associated with the concept of “puppet-making master” or “puppet doctor”.
When I opened the door to the strange puppet "hospital", it seemed to me that a sweet, kind old man, someone like Santa Claus or Dr. Aibolit, would come out to meet me.
However, Monsieur Henri was laconic and terribly serious. “Only one photo here, please,” he said dryly after a formal greeting, not even smiling. It is clear, of course, that he is not pleased by onlookers-tourists who enter the shop, do not repair anything, do not buy, and only distract from repair cases.
But when we downloaded a large article from the International Herald Tribune from his website, a lot fell into place.
It turned out that the clients of Monsieur Henri were not children who broke their toys, but elderly Parisians, from over 50 to 80 and older. They bring him their favorite dolls to fix, update and pass on to the next generation.
Almost every doll is associated with some incredible family legend. One of the dolls, named Olga, was presented to the owner by her parents before meeting with the mysterious "Russian Princess". Another doll came to the owner from ... a German officer who lived in a requisitioned (occupied, taken away from the owners) house during World War II. So, there the officer lived with his wife, who had a small child. The officer presented the same dolls to both his child and the little Frenchman, apparently the son of the owners of the house. Perhaps in order to somehow compensate for the guilt over the occupation. The Frenchman kept the doll for life as a memory of the war and those events, and Monsieur Henri restored the doll and repaired it. A letter telling this story is glued to the shop window.
Monsieur Henri not only repairs dolls, but also buys and sells them. Moreover, his favorite dolls are unique products of the 19th century, the price of which, by the way, can reach 15,000 euros.
In general, the master turned out to be a complex person, silent and, obviously, obsessed with his favorite business.
He works in his workshop 5 days a week, arriving there on a Honda motorcycle. Since 1964 Works among deposits of torso, heads, doll wigs, eyes, legs and arms.