Tiller Family Marionette Company
Carved wooden marionette with painted decoration and sewn cotton stuffed body
Late 19th century
Museum no. S291-1999
Most marionette companies included straight dramatic characters in their troupes, such as the villain and the policeman, but also presented Variety turns which called for acrobats and jugglers like this. With his dashing moustache, this juggler was part of the Tiller-Clowes troupe. His two juggling balls are cleverly stringed so that, with expert manipulation by the operator, they can balance on his hands, feet or head.
The juggler is dressed in his original black and pink silk costume, with cotton lace ruffles and cut steel sequins decorating his bolero and trousers. His boots are covered in velvet and his carved wooden hands are worn down from years of juggling, as the balls hit his hands. With other members of the Tiller troupe, he was bought from a member of the Tiller family in 1944 and performed by George Speaight at the Festival Gardens during the Festival of Britain celebrations in 1951.