Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Print - Bubbles
  • Bubbles
    John Everett Millais, born 1829 - died 1896
  • Enlarge image


  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    United Kingdom (printed)

  • Date:

    ca. 1890s (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    John Everett Millais, born 1829 - died 1896 (artist)
    A. & F. Pears Ltd. (publisher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Chromolithograph on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr. W.H. Keep

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case GG, shelf 61

This is a proof for a postage stamp featuring the face of the child in the famous 'Bubbles' posters for Pears Soap. The postage stamps were not printed in large quantities.

Thomas J. Barratt (1842-1914) of A. & F. Pears bought a painting by Sir John Everett Millais (1829–1896) of his grandson in 1886. He then reproduced it as a print, which became known as ‘Bubbles’. Such ‘artistic’ advertising appeared in the UK in the 1880s. It was initially characterised by the use of reproductions of works of art, and ‘Bubbles’ was perhaps the most famous example. T. J. Barratt was particularly keen to use the work of Royal Academicians, in order to add kudos and respectability to his product and so target middle-income customers.

Physical description

Proof of a postage stamp featuring a child's face, from a painting by Sir John Everett Millais used as advertisement for Pears Soap.

Place of Origin

United Kingdom (printed)


ca. 1890s (printed)


John Everett Millais, born 1829 - died 1896 (artist)
A. & F. Pears Ltd. (publisher)

Materials and Techniques

Chromolithograph on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Bubbles / Postage stamps / Drawn on stone by hand / never printed in bulk
Hand-written note accompanying object


Height: 2.2 cm image, Width: 1.9 cm image, Height: 15.7 cm sheet, Width: 11.9 cm sheet, Height: 13.4 cm printed area (including guide lines), Width: 7.5 cm printed area (including guidelines)

Object history note

According to a hand-written note accompanying the object these postage stamps were never printed in bulk. The lithograph was drawn onto the stone by hand.

The original painting was entitlerd 'A Child's World' and the model was Sir John Everett Millais' grandson.

(Information from Terry Parker, a collector/dealer and expert on Pears advertising, via Archivist at Unilever). "'Bubbles' was exhibited at Tooth & Sons Gallery, 5 and 6 Haymarket, London, Spring 1886 no. 118. Sir Ingram, head of the Illustrated London News bought it from there to reproduce as one of four presentation plates given away with the Illustrated London News, Christmas 1886.

Thomas Barrat saw the painting in his office and immediately decided to buy it. Ingram agreed as long as they could still reproduce it in ILN Christmas edition 1886, which obviously pre-dates A&F Pears presentation prints given away with the 1897 Annual. (The ILN version is smaller I believe and inferior print quality). Terry has come across one earlier A&F print which may have been a trial run, dated 1894. All of these were without the soap bar. The image was so successful that it was later used in dozens of different formats from postcards and showcards to billboard posters, with the addition of the bar of soap and A&F Pear logo."

Descriptive line

Pear's Soap advertising material, colour lithograph, proof for postage stamp, depicting a boy watching a soap bubble

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1942, London: HMSO, 1955.


Printing ink; Paper


Colour lithography


Prints; Children & Childhood; Advertising


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.