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Costume design - H.M.S. Pinafore
  • H.M.S. Pinafore
    Sheringham, George, born 1884 - died 1937
  • Enlarge image

H.M.S. Pinafore

  • Object:

    Costume design

  • Place of origin:

    London (designed)

  • Date:

    1929 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sheringham, George, born 1884 - died 1937 (designers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    watercolour and bodycolour over pencil on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Bridget D'Oyly Carte.
    The V&A wishes to acknowledge the generous support given by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, which facilitated the cataloguing of the D’Oyly Carte Archive designs in 2015/16.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

HMS Pinafore, or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan was produced at the Opera Comique Theatre under the management of the Comedy Opera Company, on Saturday 25th May 1878 until 24 December and from Saturday 1st until Thursday 20th February 1879.

Delighted with The Sorcerer, D’Oyly Carte commissioned a new work from Gilbert and Sullivan in December 1877. Britain was a seafaring nation, and Gilbert’s new libretto satirised the popular nautical melodramas of his youth such as Douglas Jerrold’s Black Eye’d Susan. Gilbert had featured nautical folk and language in his Bab Ballads, and developed them in H.M.S. Pinafore, a shipboard opera that opened in May 1878 featuring the considerate Captain Corcoran, his gallant crew, the dastardly Dick Deadeye, the First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Joseph Porter (a thinly-veiled portrait of the bookseller turned politician W.H. Smith), his sisters, cousins and aunts, and Buttercup the Bumboat woman.

After a slow start due to a summer heatwave, the opera was a hit by August after Sullivan included its sparkling tunes in a Covent Garden concert. Angered by a host of unauthorised American productions starting with one in Boston in November 1878, Carte planned its first authorised American production which opened the following year at New York’s Fifth Avenue Theatre in December 1879, with Sullivan conducting.

George Sheringham (1884-1937) was an eclectic and prolific artist, commercial designer and stage designer whose early childhood was spent in Tewksbury where his father was vicar of the Abbey. After school at the King’s School, Gloucester, and eighteen months at the Slade Art School from the age of fifteen, Sheringham studied with Harry Becker from 1901 to 1904, and lived and studied in Paris in 1905 and 1906, where he was influenced by oriental art in the Musée Guimet. After supporting himself with poster design and watercolour painting he specialised in decorative work painting fans and panels on Lyonnais silk from November 1910. In 1915 he did his first book illustration for Max Beerbohm’s The Happy Hypocrite, and in 1917 and 1918 his first theatre designs for The Sneezing Charm produced by the private theatre club The Plough Club.

Sheringham’s work for productions by Nigel Playfair at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, starting with designs for The Duenna in 1924 led to commissions by Rupert D’Oyly Carte for redressing The Pirates of Penzance, H.M.S. Pinafore and Patience for the 1929 season, and for new dresses for Phyllis, Stephon and the Fairies in Iolanthe in1932. He was awarded a Grand Prix at the Paris Salon in 1925 for mural and theatrical design, and although an invalid from 1932, he continued flower painting until his death in 1937, shortly before his 53rd birthday.

Physical description

Watercolour and bodycolour over pencil on paper. The design features a female figure wearing a dress with gold trim along with a blue jacket with gold cuffs and matching blue hat.

Place of Origin

London (designed)


1929 (designed)


Sheringham, George, born 1884 - died 1937 (designers)

Materials and Techniques

watercolour and bodycolour over pencil on paper


Height: 32.2 cm, Width: 22.9 cm

Descriptive line

Costume design by George Sheringham for Hebe from a production of H.M.S. Pinafore, Savoy Theatre, 1929


Watercolour; Bodycolour; Pencil; Paper


Designing; Drawing (image-making); Painting (image-making)


Entertainment & Leisure; Theatre; Designs


Theatre and Performance Collection

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