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Marionette

Marionette

  • Place of origin:

    Lincolnshire (made)

  • Date:

    1870s-1890s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tiller family marionette company (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved wood with painted decoration and cotton costume

  • Museum number:

    S.286-1999

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is one of 35 marionettes from the Tiller-Clowes troupe, one of the last Victorian marionette troupes in England. Marionette shows were a popular form of entertainment for adults in the 19th century, many of them family concerns which travelled around the country long before the advent of film and television, presenting shortened versions of London's latest popular entertainment from melodramas and pantomimes to minstrel shows and music hall. In the 18th and early 19th centuries their theatres were relatively makeshift, but after about 1860 many became quite elaborate, with walls constructed from wooden shutters, seating made from tiered planks of wood, and canvas roofs.

The figures were carved, painted, dressed and performed by members of the company. This is a trick figure dressed in its original costume. It has three heads which fit inside the neck and would have been raised for comic effect. It is based on the boastful character Scaramouche from the Italian knockabout comedy called 'Commedia dell'Arte', and may have appeared in a marionette music hall or pantomime.

Physical description

Carved wooden marionette in the form of a three-headed Scaramouche, the two smaller heads inserted into the larger heads, and the largest head sunk into the body. The costume of the main body is of red and white striped cotton, with blue and white cotton frills, decorated with sequins at the shoulders, ankles and wrists. The large head wears a purple silk hat (rather rotten) and a stripey neck frill. The second head has a stripey cotton hat with a purple silk neck frill.

The body is a carved flat pelvis piece for the attachment of the legs, with a hoop set in and another hoop at the rim of the top of the body. There are strings to the shoulders and to the hands - the hands being attached to the legs, but without any separate leg strings. There are also strings to the sides of the large head and to the top of the smaller head. There are no ankle joints, but leather loops at the top of the thighs.

Two control bars, one pulling the string through the other, with the fixed strings on the other only attached to the sides of the large head.

Place of Origin

Lincolnshire (made)

Date

1870s-1890s (made)

Artist/maker

Tiller family marionette company (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved wood with painted decoration and cotton costume

Dimensions

Height: 98 cm top of largest head to feet, heads extended, Height: 35 cm top of largest head to feet, heads within body, Length: 16 cm first head, Circumference: 26 cm first head, Length: 11 cm second head, Circumference: 19 cm secong head, Length: 8 cm third head

Object history note

This marionette along with the rest of the troupe and three of their original backcloths had been stored in a blacksmith's shop in Lincolnshire for over thirty years, but after cleaning and re-stringing, most were restored by Gerald Morice and George Speaight who purchased them in 1945. They began working on recreating some of the puppets' original repertoire. Since the original cloths were too fragile for performance, new backdrops were painted, and in August 1951 as part of The Festival of Britain celebrations, the marionettes took to the stage again as The Old Time Marionettes, at the Riverside Theatre, Festival Gardens, Battersea Park. In the 1980s George Speaight lent the troupe to puppeteers in Germany but in the late 1990s he sold them to John Phillips, whose widow sold them to The Theatre Museum after his death in 1998.

Descriptive line

Carved wooden marionette from the Tiller troupe. Speciality act figure representing a three-headed Scaramouch. Made by the Tiller family circa 1870 to 1890.

Production Note

It is impossible to identify the precise maker of this marionette since the company made, altered and used figures throughout its career. It is possible to distinguish distinct types of carving in the human figures, but not in this case. It has deeply carved nostrils, no ears, and a nose a little more prominent than those of Maker D.

Materials

Wood; String; Cotton (textile)

Techniques

Carved; Painted

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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