Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Art of Play: The Tiller Family Devil, c. 1870

Devil Puppet
The Tiller-Clowes Troupe
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve examined several of the marionettes from the Tiller-Clowes troupe--one of the last Victorian marionette troupes in England. Thirty-five of their original Nineteenth Century marionettes remain and, though they live at the V&A, are sometimes trotted out for shows.

The figures were carved, painted, dressed and performed by members of the company. Here we see the stock character of the Devil. His flashing purple eyes are made from foil paper. This figure would mostly have been used in the harlequinade of a pantomime, or any play requiring such a character—especially marionette versions of Punch & Judy.

The puppet’s face, beard, hands and fingernails are very strongly carved with more detail than is usual for the puppets from this troupe. One horn and his hooves were missing and have been recently reconstructed. Originally, there were strings to the ears and the top of the head, and there is a staple in his head for a head string. There are eyelets to the knees, but the figure is unstrung and hasn’t been used in nearly a century. It was made in between 1870 and 1890.

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