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  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1787-1788 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ivory and intaglio printed paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

The King's Theatre, Haymarket, originally called the Queen's Theatre after Queen Anne, was built by Sir John Vanbrugh, opening in 1705. Handel's oratorio Estherwas sung here for the first time in England.

The fan shows how going to the theatre proved your social standing. Here we can see how 'subscribers' (people who rented boxes for a season at the theatre) could include Mrs Fitzherbert, mistress of the Prince of Wales, and other important people like the Duke of Gloucester. To prove their right to the box, they held ivory discs or tokens which - for this important venue - were obtained from a bank in Pall Mall. Things were about to change however; when this theatre was rebuilt after a fire in 1789, a less fashionable season was introduced, where boxes could be purchased by the general public, and seats in the upper tier cost a guinea each.

Physical description

Paper and ivory folding fan, printed on one side with a seating plan of the King's Theatre, London, and a plan of the subscribers' boxes on the other.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1787-1788 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Ivory and intaglio printed paper


Height: 32 cm, Width: 53 cm, Depth: 4 cm

Descriptive line

Box renter's fan for the 1787-1788 season printed with plans of the Kings Theatre and subscribers' boxes, paper leaf with ivory sticks, made in London, 1787

Labels and date

Renting boxes by the season to subscribers was not only an important and dependable source of income for theatres. As it was important in high society to be seen in the most fashionable venues, the patronage of wealthy and influential renters increased a theatre’s status and earning power.
Subscribers identified themselves by means of tokens, often inscribed with their names.[ 60 words]

Box renter’s fan
About 1787–8
King’s Theatre (on the site of the present Her Majesty’s Theatre), London
Paper and ivory
Museum no. S.396-1985

Royal Italian Opera (now the Royal Opera House), London
Ivory and ribbon
Museum no. S.530-1985 [March 2009]


Paper; Ivory




Fashion; Europeana Fashion Project


Theatre and Performance Collection

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