Puppeteer Giovanni Piccini was born in 1744/5 in Piacenza. There are no details about his early years. He arrived in London in about 1779, along with his brother. Most likely he toured the various fairs in London and beyond before permanently settling in the capital where his shows became a familiar sight. He has been referred to as the ‘first original street Punch’. Piccini inspired a new generation of Punch performers.
In 1828, John Payne Collier published Punch and Judy a Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy with illustrations by George Cruikshank. The popular book was based on Piccini’s final performance. Soon after he retired, he went living in the King’s Arms tavern at the Coal-Yard off Dury Lane, St Giles. In old age he was hit by poverty, ending up in the St Giles Workhouse where he died in 1835.