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Cut Cloth

Cut Cloth

  • 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

Cut cloth attached to a square wooden batten at the top and two circular battens at the bottom, cut with a central archway. There are two bolts and wing nuts on the top batten. The fine plain weave linen cloth is painted in distemper with a shipboard scene showing the deck of a sailing ship with ropes and pulleys for the sails, ladders either side leaning on observation points, a barrel stage right and a chect stage left. The reverse is painted with the interior of a grand room, the walls light blue with pink panels and an architectural dado and 'trompe-l'oeil' pillars. The wall and central archway are painted with swagged turquoise curtains with gold patterns and gold bullion fringing [S.197:1-2007]. There are folded seams left and right, and all corners have been strengthened with extra pieces of fabric.

Place of Origin

Long Sutton (possibly, painted)


ca.1870 (painted)


Tiller family marionette company (painter)

Materials and Techniques

painted canvas


Height: 167.0 cm canvas, Width: 328.8 cm cloth at the top, Width: 345.3 cm top batten, Width: 327.9 cm cloth at the bottom, Width: 357.5 cm lower batten, Height: 89.4 cm central arched opening, Width: 140.0 cm central arched opening

Descriptive line

Cut cloth representing the deck of a 19th-century sailing ship. Painted canvas, probably c.1870 and originally made for a marionette theatre production by the Tiller family company. Gift of George Speaight.


Canvas; Distemper; Wood

Subjects depicted

Ropes; Deck; Ladders; Sailing ship; Barrel; Chest


Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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