Luke Honey’s cabinet of Curiosities: tinsel photographs and toy theatres

Our columnist considers the compulsion to collect and shares his latest obsession, old tinsel pictures and toy theatres…

These tinsel pictures belonged to Vivien Leigh and sold at Sotheby’s in 2017.



one of my established ‘single owner’ collections became the Sotheby’s sale of Vivien Leigh’s estate in September 2017. As that you would be able to think about, she had impeccable taste. One lot that caught my eye was her set of framed Victorian theatrical tinsel photos, which sold for a deserved £three,000. They used to hang in the library of Notley Abbey, the twelfth-century Buckinghamshire condo she shared with her husband, Laurence Olivier.

do you know about these? A tinsel image is an early to mid 19th-century theatrical engraving on paper – sold as ‘a penny simple, or tuppence coloured’, always depicting a popular actor of the time in a swashbuckling function: a highwayman, a pirate, a swooning heroine, or a Shakespearean bandit. The print could then be ‘tinselled’ at domestic – a pleasant craze, which first caught on in the 1820s until
it petered out in the 1860s.

The enthusiastic ‘tinseller’ might then adorn their print with various types of materials glued to the surface: scraps of fabric for the clothes, bits of leather for the belts, tufts of feather for the caps, and even beads, for a extra flamboyant effect.

These tinsel pictures belonged to Vivien Leigh and sold at Sotheby’s in 2017.
This tinsel pictures belonged to Vivien Leigh and offered at Sotheby’s in 2017.

via the 1830s, ready-reduce sheets of adorns have been greatly available on the market, together with die-reduce metal foils to simulate the silver, metal and copper of armour, swords, buckles and daggers. In 1836, Mr Webb’s catalogue offered an striking range of 13,000 tinsel embellishes. The complete result became then framed in rosewood, walnut or chicken’s eye maple, and displayed on the wall with pride. For the joy of the tinsel graphic is that each one is a special advent.

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Theatrical prints were offered with the aid of printers and stationers, and the a good deal-adored organizations of William West,
J. okay. eco-friendly, Hodgson, Redington and Skelt offered toy theatres and performs alongside the pictures. Toy theatres were commonplace babies’s toys until the conclusion of the 19th century. As with the tinsel photographs, miniature prosceniums, characters, scenery and props had been printed onto paper and sold as particular person sheets, which could then be cut out, pasted onto card or wood and painted, or purchased able-painted because the pocket allowed.

These tinsel pictures belonged to Vivien Leigh and sold at Sotheby’s in 2017.
one other tinsel photo from Vivien Leigh’s collection, bought at Sotheby’s in 2017.

by means of the Eighties, best two toy theatre publishers remained in London: Pollock in Hoxton and Webb in Finsbury. Pollock struggled on as a quaint anachronism, except Benjamin Pollock’s demise in 1937. In 1944, Alan eager, a rare e-book broking, bought up the total inventory, including the normal copper plates, and began republishing the plays and theatres. Eleven years later, facing bankruptcy, the company become saved by using the outstanding Marguerite Fawdry, who re-dependent the enterprise in the attic of an old house in Covent garden. all through the Swinging Sixties, this grew to become a Mecca for fashionable folks searching for a trendy present for their ‘with-it’ toddlers.

are looking to be aware of greater about vintage toy theatres?

right here, Luke Honey tells us greater about their historical past…

A brightly coloured Pollock's toy theatre

One memorable Christmas, I bought a Pollock’s toy theatre with my pocket cash. each year, I rescue it from the attic and set it up subsequent to our tree with its collection of old glass decorations from Lauscha in Germany. many years in the past, I used to force my long-struggling family to watch creaky productions with my little sister ordered to read the minor parts. after which, as an undergraduate at London tuition, I found Pollock’s Toy Museum & Theatrical Print Warehouse in a dingy Bloomsbury backstreet. Drawn like a moth to a flickering candle, it grew to be a regular haunt, as much for its intoxicating ambiance – evoking the gaslit world of an Edwardian certainly not-certainly not Land – as for the theatres themselves.

It’s nonetheless viable to find tinsel photos for sale in antiques retail outlets and public sale rooms at affordable costs. In fresh times, the cyber web has spawned an exciting and inventive toy theatre revival. antique toy theatres are infrequent, but facsimile toy theatre sheets at the moment are available to buy on-line to print, cut out and colour at domestic – as was the long-established intention. The story of the toy theatre has come full circle

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Luke Honey is an antiques broker and creator. find out extra at lukehoney.co.uk

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