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'The Flute Player'

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1902 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Nister, Ernest, born 1842 - died 1909 (publisher)
    Wain, Louis William, born 1860 - died 1939 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Ernest Nister (1842-1909) began his publishing career in 1885 when he acquired a lithographic workshop in Nürnberg and printed books for London publishers. In 1888 he became a publisher in his own right with offices at 24 St. Bride Street, London. He appointed the writer and editor, Robert Ellice Mack, as director.

Nister specialised in high quality colour printing for children in the last quarter of the 19th century. Movable books with various mechanisms became his speciality after 1890 (when be published his first stand-up book) but he also produced numerous picture books, annuals, poetry, nursery rhymes, calendars and greetings cards. He worked with a core of writers, including Clifton Bingham and Robert Ellice Mack, and illustrators, in particular Eveline Lance, Lizzie Lawson, Harriett M. Bennett, Edith A. Cubitt and Rosa Petherick.

These two pen and ink drawings by Louis Wain were published in 1902 in All Sorts of Comical Cats, pictured by Louis Wain with verses by Clifton Bingham, and published in London by Ernest Nister and in New York by E. P. Dutton & Co. The drawings illustrate a hack poem by Clifton Bingham entitled 'The Flute Player':

Thomas Purr a flute had got,
Sat upon a chimney-pot,
Played as well as he knew how,
"Take me home to mother now!"

Mousie crept out from his hole:
He had music in his soul;
Thought he: "I am charmed with that,"
So upon Tom's flute he sat.

Can you picture Tom's surprise?
Open wide went both his eyes;
All at once the music stopped,
Tom his precious new flute dropped.
Moral: if you've got an ear
For sweet sounds - don't go too near.

A third illustration by Wain appears in the published book depicting the mouse sitting on the end of the cat's flute.

Physical description

Pen and ink drawing on paper depicting two chimneys. On the chimney on the left of the drawing a cat plays a flute sitting on one of two chimney pots. A small black mouse sits on the second chimnney pot. On the chimney on the right of the drawing a cat peers down the second chimney pot, dropping its flute; smoke comes out of the first chimney pot. Mounted on grey card.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1902 (made)


Nister, Ernest, born 1842 - died 1909 (publisher)
Wain, Louis William, born 1860 - died 1939 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Bookplate on verso of mount reads: 'From the Library of Anne Renier and F.G. Renier'

Initialled by Anne Renier in ink on verso of mount: 'AR'

Inscribed in blue crayon on verso of mount: 'A' and '68'

Inscribed in ink on verso of mount: '21366 XXIVa' and '21370 XXIVa'

Inscribed in pencil by Anne Renier on verso of mount: 'Wain'

Ink stamp on verso of drawing: 'Ernest Nister / Order no. 39054 /26'

Inscribed in ink on verso of drawing: '[?]21366'

Signed by the artist in ink in bottom left corner


Height: 327 mm Mount, Width: 380 mm Mount

Object history note

Drawn by Louis Wain in 1902 for Ernest Nister. Bequeathed to the V&A in 1970 by Anne Renier and Fernand G. Renier as part of the Renier Collection.

Descriptive line

Pen and ink drawings by Louis Wain, 1902; produced for Ernest Nister.


Pen and ink; Paper (fiber product)



Subjects depicted

Chimneys (architectural elements); Chimney pots; Mouse (animal); Anthropomorphism; Flutes (aerophones); Smoke; Cats


Drawings; Illustration; Books; National Art Library

Production Type



National Art Library

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