Vintage Instructions: Hand Shadows Create Animals

It’s hard to say when making figures using the shadows of our hands started, but it probably originated on the walls of caves lit by the dancing flames of an ancient fire. Through the ages, the art shadow puppetry progressed to include animals, people, and characters of all sorts, culminating in the late 19th century when French entertainer Félicien Trewey popularized the technique by making the silhouettes of famous figures.

Officially called Shadowgraphy, the fun skill is as simple as having one light source, like a candle or single bulb, and a wall to cast shadows upon. The vintage illustrations we bring you here include such easy examples as a bird in flight (most of us have probably made this one), all the way to the challenging silhouettes of a camel and even a young boy.


Before you write this art form off as something that is static, check out the inspiring video at the bottom of this post. Featuring the beautiful version of What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, it brings many of these characters to life.

Interested in some major shadow puppet inspiration? Check out this video featuring Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World:


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