(also refered to as "OMBROMANIE")
Shadowgraphy, the art of using the hands (and sometimes certain props)
to form figures onto a blank screen can be traced back to the middle
of the 18th Century, although the idea seems to be a lot older, and
can be traced back to the shadow puppets of Indonesia circa 850 AD
and in China during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907).
The art was introduced to Europe by travelers returning back from China,
who had seen the Chinese puppet theatre shows. The first "ombres chinoises"
were presented in Paris in 1776 by Dominique Séraphin. The show was moved to
Versailles in 1781. The tradition continued in Paris with the cabaret "Chat Noir"
producing shows of "ombres chinoises" "(Chinese shadows") with up to twenty
It is important to note that these shadows were created by the use of
two-dimensional cut-out "puppets" made from various materials. The shadows
were rarely created by the hands alone.
In modern times the art of "ombromanie" (using only the hands as a medium
to create the shadow) was made popular by Félicien Trewey
(real name Félicien-François TREVEY) (b. Angoulême 23rd May
1848 d. Asnières, 2nd December 1920).
At the age of fifteen Trewey ran away from home to become a magician
and tight rope walker. Trewey popularised the art of shadowgraphy by making
silhouettes of famous personalities with his hands. In 1889 he joined
Alexander Herrmann in New York. After that many magicians began to
imitate his "Shadowgraphy".
During his career as a magician and vaudville performer, Trewey performed
all over Europe and often in London. After the building of a one thousand
seater theatre at the Regent Street Polytechnic (the first Polytechnic in
Britain), Trewey bought the Lumiere brothers to this stage for the first
presentation of Cinematograph before a paying audience (an outrageous one
shilling per person) on 20th February 1896.
There is of course a strong connection between magicians, shadows and the
first cinema shows; cinema at the time was considered an extension of many of
the illusions performed on stage.
Trewey also performed a Chapeaugraphy act and features in a short film by
Louis Lumiere from 1895 called "Chapeaux a Transformations".
Trewey wrote a 16 page booklet which was published in the year of his death
"The Art of Shadowgraphy - How it is done" (pub. Jordison, London).
Around the same time as Trewey, David Devant and Edward Victor (cf. "Edward
Victor's Hands" by Rae Hammond) were also performing Shadowgraphy in their acts.
It would appear that Alexander Herrmann learnt Shadowgraphy from watchng the
performances of Trewey. It would then follow that David Tobias Bamberg (father
of "Okito") learnt from Alexander Herrmann. David Tobias Bamberg then passed this
down to his son, and "Okito" (David Tobias "Theodore" Bamberg) then passed it down
to his son "Fu Manchu". "Okito" toured with the Thurston show as a shadowgrapher
for many years. "Fu Manchu" likewise featured shadowgraphy in his act for many years.
Holden (William Holden Maxwell) (b. Boston Mass.of Scottish parents, 1884 d. 1949)
featured Shadowgraphy in his performances in the duo "Holden and Graham" - Max
Holden and Miss Graham (his assistant wife).
Holden was famous for his shadow "Monkey in the Bellfry"
He left the stage in 1929 to open up a magic business in Manhattan - the
famous "Max Holden Magic Shop". Max Holden was also the author of the book
"Programmes of Famous Magicians" (pub. New York 1937).
A book published in 1859 by Henry Bursill entitled "Hand Shadows to be
thrown upon the wall" contains numerous animals and humans each with their
own careful illustration. In the words of the auhtor "I have drawn the due
position of the fingers with such care, that the most difficult subject may
be accomplished after a few minutes; nor need ingenious youth or parental
fondness confine their endeavours to the sketches contained in this book"
An extensive chapter on Hand Shadows may be read in the book "Home Fun"
by Cecil H. Bullivant (pub. 1910).