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Costume design - H.M.S. Pinafore
  • H.M.S. Pinafore
    Anderson, Percy, born 1851 - died 1928
  • Enlarge image

H.M.S. Pinafore

  • Object:

    Costume design

  • Place of origin:

    London (designed)

  • Date:

    1920 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Anderson, Percy, born 1851 - died 1928 (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.

The artist and costume designer Percy Anderson (1851-1928) was based in London where he exhibited watercolours at the New Water Colour Society in 1886. He designed costumes for the original productions of the last four Gilbert and Sullivan operas at the Savoy Theatre - The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), The Gondoliers (1889), Utopia, Limited (1893), and The Grand Duke (1896), and for several D’Oyly Carte revivals including that for Utopia, Limited considered by Rupert D’Oyly Carte in 1926 and but never realised. Given Gilbert’s exacting attitude to his productions it is an accolade to Anderson that he worked with Gilbert on so many, including Gilbert and Edward German’s Fallen Fairies (1909), when Gilbert said Anderson: ‘surpassed himself’.

Anderson designed costumes for many other notable late 19th century productions including several by Herbert Beerbohm Tree at His Majesty’s Theatre, and musical comedies produced by George Edwardes at Daly’s Theatre such as San Toy (1899) and The Duchess of Dantzig (1903). Among his other successes were costumes for Oscar Ashe’s spectacular productions Kismet (1911), Chu Chin Chow (1916), and Cairo (1921). He also painted portraits including those of his great friend Edward Elgar (1905), Stephen Phillips (1902), and Joseph Conrad (1918).

Physical description

Watercolour and bodycolour over pencil on paper. The design features three figures. The figure on the right is in front view and is wearing a brown and blue gown. The figure on the left is in three-quarter view and is wearing a grey dress with pink trim. At the bottom left corner is the back view of a female's head showing a blue headdress.

Place of Origin

London (designed)


1920 (designed)


Anderson, Percy, born 1851 - died 1928 (designers)

Materials and Techniques

watercolour and bodycolour over pencil on paper


Height: 17.8 cm, Width: 25.5 cm

Descriptive line

Costume design by Percy Anderson for a Sister, Cousin or Aunt in Act II from a production of H.M.S. Pinafore, Princes Theatre, 1920


Pencil; Paper; Watercolour; Bodycolour


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


Entertainment & Leisure; Theatre; Designs


Theatre and Performance Collection

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