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A Peep at the Elephant at the Adelphi Theatre

Paper Peepshow
ca. 1829 (published)
Place Of Origin

This paper peepshow documents two scenes in the play ‘The Elephant of Siam, or, The Fire-Fiend’ at the Adelphi Theatre.

Written by Samuel Beazley Junior, the play was first produced at the Adelphi on 3 December 1829, and consisted of a struggle between the true prince of Siam and a usurper and. However, the plot was only secondary; the principal aim of the play was to mark the debut of the famous female elephant Mademoiselle D’Jeck at the Adelphi and to show off her various tricks. At the end of the show, she even took the curtain call in place of Beazley. The play went on until April 1830, after which D’Jeck started touring around England.

Given the popularity of the play, it would be likely what this paper peepshow was sold on-site as a souvenir.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Brief Description
A Peep at the Elephant at the Adelphi Theatre, ca.1829
Physical Description
Accordion-style peepshow of a performance with an elephant on stage at the Adelphi Theatre, London.



4 cut-out panels. 1 peep-hole. Hand-coloured aquatint. Expands to approximately 45 cm.



Front-face: the title and the vignette of the elephant at the Adelphi Theatre, with caption reading ‘The Vignette exhibits the Elephant gathering Flowers,’ and four lines of verse: ‘“Who doubts that elephants are found/For science and sense renowned,/Let those who question this report.” – [John] Gay/To the Adelphi stage resort.’ A note beneath the verse reads ‘The first scene represents the escape of the Prince and his Guards from prison. The last the grand entré of the Elephant Bearing the King & Queen of Siam.’ The peep-hole consists of an oval hole in the centre.



Panel 1: the audience in the theatre stalls.



Panel 2: the audience in the boxes.



Panel 3: the proscenium arch.



Panel 4: the Prince and his guards sliding down the elephant to escape from prison. It is hinged to the bellows on the right and can open to reveal the back panel.



Back panel: the King and Queen of Siam riding the elephant in triumph.

Dimensions
  • Height: 14cm
  • Width: 10.8cm
  • Fully extended length: 45cm
Credit line
Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from the collections of Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016.
Object history
Part of the Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection, collected over 30 years and given to the V&A Museum through the government's Cultural Gift Scheme, 2016.
Summary
This paper peepshow documents two scenes in the play ‘The Elephant of Siam, or, The Fire-Fiend’ at the Adelphi Theatre.



Written by Samuel Beazley Junior, the play was first produced at the Adelphi on 3 December 1829, and consisted of a struggle between the true prince of Siam and a usurper and. However, the plot was only secondary; the principal aim of the play was to mark the debut of the famous female elephant Mademoiselle D’Jeck at the Adelphi and to show off her various tricks. At the end of the show, she even took the curtain call in place of Beazley. The play went on until April 1830, after which D’Jeck started touring around England.



Given the popularity of the play, it would be likely what this paper peepshow was sold on-site as a souvenir.

Bibliographic Reference
R. Hyde, Paper Peepshows. The Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection (Woodbridge: The Antique Collectors' Club, 2015), cat. 214.
Other Numbers
  • 38041017020413 - NAL barcode
  • 2014301 - Previous owner's number
Collection
Library Number
Gestetner 214

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record createdMarch 10, 2017
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