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Poster  - Vauxhall Gardens - Final Masquerade

Vauxhall Gardens - Final Masquerade

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (printed)

  • Date:

    1842 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    W.S. Johnson (printers (people))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woodcut and letterpress

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This poster advertises the so-called 'Final Masquerade' on 8 September 1842 at Vauxhall Gardens, the London Pleasure Gardens that originally opened in 1661. It advertises equestrian circus acts which did not begin at the gardens until well into the 19th century, as well as dances by 'La Petite Taglioni' including the cachucha and the tarentella. The French equestrienne Mlle. Caroline specialised in getting her horses to be obedient, while the Italian Signor Boltari was called 'the Italian Devil Rider'. The flamboyant engraved lettering for the word 'Masquerade' incorporate the pantomime characters Harlequin, Columbine, Pantaloon and Clown, as well as the Shakespearean characters Hamlet, Macbeth, Shylock and Richard III.

The printer of this poster William Spencer Johnson began trading in 1835 from premises in Nassau Street, Soho, and moved to St. Martin's Lane in 1846. He probably made frequent use of these spectacular stock letter forms to attract patrons to go in costume to masquerades, which were regularly held at Vauxhall Gardens on the south bank of the River Thames. Despite this being advertised as Vauxhall's 'final Masquerade', the Gardens did not actually close until 1859 when their 'Last Night Forever' took place on 25 June.

Masks, 'Dominos' or cloaks, and other Fancy Dress provided fun and intrigue for visitors to the Masquerade. This poster notes that these could be obtained from Obbard's Masquerade Warehouse, 7, Tavistock Street; Mr. Simmond's Warehouse, 72, Castle Street, Leicester Square; Mrs. Fentum's Opera Establishment at 78, Strand, and also at the entrance to the Gardens. There was obviously no excuse for patrons to enter the Masquerade undisguised. Mrs. Fentum, or Mary Ann Fentum had premises in the Strand established in 1763 by Jonathan Fentum as music engravers, sellers and publishers. Charles Obbard presented Masquerades in London in the 1830s and 1840s, and on 22nd January 1843 the theatrical paper The Era advertised Obbard's 'Grand Costume and Fancy Ball' at the Crown & Anchor Tavern in the Strand.

Physical description

Letterpress poster with the royal coat of arms top centre surrounded by the words 'Vauxhall' and 'Masquerade', below which is noted: 'under the High Patronage of Mer Most Gracious Majesty' and below that 'Final Masquerade'. The word 'Masquerade' is printed in 3-dimensional fat face letters, each featuring a woodcut image of a theatrical character including Harlequin, Columbine, Clown, Hamlet, Falstaf, Shylock, Macbeth and Richard lll. Various typefaces are used to advertise the vocal concert, equestrian acts, ballet divertissement and fireworks. Names of the performers featured on the poster include the singers in the concert Mrs. H. P. Grattan, Miss Betts, Mr. Allen and Mr. S. Jones; the French equestrienne Mlle. Caroline, the Italian equestrian 'devil rider' Signor Antonio Boltari performing his act The Voltigeur of Milan!, the American equestrian Mr Stickney, the equestrian Mr. Hickey, the ballerina La Petite Taglioni, and the Firework organiser Mr. Darby. Ducrow's 'Classical Scenes of the Circle' were performed by Messrs. Hicken, Stickney and Boltari, while Mr Hicken performed The Triumph of Fame, or, Lites Sports and Characters featuring the seven 'pantomimic characters' on horseback the Tar of All Weathers, Paul Pry, the Bavarian Broom Girl, Vanderdecken the Flying Dutchman, Fame, and Glory. The Riding Masters were Mr. Widdicomb and Mr. Needham; the dancers were directed by W.H. Payne of Covent Garden Theatre, the Dance Orchestra conducted by Monsieur Collinet and the Military Band by Mr. Baddely.

Place of Origin

London (printed)


1842 (printed)


W.S. Johnson (printers (people))

Materials and Techniques

Woodcut and letterpress


Height: 780 mm, Width: 530 mm

Descriptive line

Poster advertising The Final Masquerade at Vauxhall Gardens, London, 8 September 1842. Letterpress printed by W.S. Johnson, Soho, 1842

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


Subjects depicted



Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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