Friday, May 17, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: The Tiller-Clowes Polander, 1870-1890

The Tiller-Clowes Marionette Troupe
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s another of the set of thirty-five marionettes from the Victorian Tiller-Clowes marionette troupe which wowed London in the mid-to-late Nineteenth Century. This one, like its brothers, features a head, legs and hands of carved and painted wood as well as its original handmade costume.

You may not instantly recognize what or who this figure represents. He’s a “polander” or a pole dancer, and, no, not the kind of pole dancers we have today. He’s based on a real man, “The Great Polander” who was a hit in London in the late Eighteenth Century. The act involved dancing while juggling a pole. And, that’s what this marionette can do. He’s incredibly difficult, I imagine, to operate since juggling the pole requires the figure to switch the object from hand to hand.

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