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Cut cloth

  • Place of origin:

    Long Sutton (possibly, painted)

  • Date:

    c.1870 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tiller, J. (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 split square wooden batten at the top and a split circular wooden batten at the bottom. There are four pieces of rope attached to top batten forming loops; the rope has become detached at the far right and the lower batten has warped. The relatively fine weave canvas cloth is painted fairly thinly in distemper with a fairytale-style scene showing the exterior of a whitewashed country cottage stage left with a green door outside which are sunflowers and daisies, a wooden fence, a stile and a pathway leading to a distant house, outbuildings and trees. The reverse is painted with a fairytale-stylestreet sceene of predominantly yellow houses with blue shutters [S.198:2-2007].

Place of Origin

Long Sutton (possibly, painted)


c.1870 (painted)


Tiller, J. (painter)

Materials and Techniques

painted canvas

Marks and inscriptions

J. Tiller
Signed in paint.


Height: 110.5 cm canvas, Height: 117.0 cm including battens, Width: 277.2 cm canvas, Width: 297.0 cm with battens, Height: 89.4 cm central arched opening, Width: 140.0 cm central arched opening

Descriptive line

Cut cloth representing the exterior of a country cottage with sunflowers and a landscape with fields. Painted canvas, probably c.1870 and originally made for a marionette theatre production by the Tiller family company. Painted by J. Tiller. Gift of George Speaight.


Canvas; Distemper; Wood

Subjects depicted

Stiles (stairs); Sunflowers; Cottage; Fence


Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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