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  • Place of origin:

    Long Sutton (possibly, painted)

  • Date:

    ca.1870 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tiller family marionette company (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    painted canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by George Speaight.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is one of several 19th century scenic cloths for travelling marionette shows performed by the Clowes and Tiller companies, and possibly the only surviving group of 19th century scenic cloths of their type. They are rare survivals which offer first-hand evidence about marionette shows of their time, and about 19th century scene painting in general. They were given to the museum by George Speaight after he had looked after them in his attic for almost fifty years. He and Gerald Morice had bought them in the late 1940s from Harriet Clowes who remembered performing with them when she was a girl. At the same time they bought a quantity of marionettes which are now also in the museum's collection.

Scene-painters were much in demand for marionette shows, as they were for the theatre generally, and when companies didn't have the expertise themselves, they advertised for scene- painters. Each play had several scenes, and to save on the expense of canvas, many of these cloths are painted on both sides, with different scenes. Some even have eyelets which may show their origins as sails.

Physical description

Painted backcloth on very fine plain weave linen attached to wooden battens top and bottom, representing an interior of a picture gallery, or a room hung with family portraits. The walls are pink and there are six portraits, three either side of the window which is at the centre, dressed with a pink pelmet and blue curtains. The cloth is painted on the reverse with a scene of a road by a river with to a 3-arched bridge, the road leading to a distant village, stage right.[S.196:1-2007]. There are two eye rings screwed into the top batten, which is slightly curved. There is a cord threaded through the upper batten at the right edge. There are side seams with the cloth folded back to the 'Interior' side.

Place of Origin

Long Sutton (possibly, painted)


ca.1870 (painted)


Tiller family marionette company (painter)

Materials and Techniques

painted canvas


Height: 137.0 cm canvas, Width: 307.0 cm

Descriptive line

Backcloth representing a picture gallery or a drawing room hung with family portraits. Painted canvas, probably c.1870 and originally made for a marionette theatre production by the Tiller family company. Gift of George Speaight.


Canvas; Distemper

Subjects depicted

Paintings; Curtains; Portraits; Window


Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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