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Paper peepshow - [Thames Tunnel]

[Thames Tunnel]

  • Object:

    Paper peepshow

  • Date:

    1862 (published)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    paper

  • 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.

  • Museum number:

    Gestetner 323

  • Gallery location:

    National Art Library

The Thames Tunnel was one of the most popular subjects for paper peepshows. Its construction started in 1825, and after various flood accidents and a long period of suspension of work between 1828 and 1835, the Tunnel finally opened to the public on 25 March 1843. It was received with great excitement both during and immediately after its construction, both in Great Britain and abroad. A great variety of souvenirs were produced, including paper peepshows of different designs.

This Italian paper peepshow is quite puzzling as, although an inscription in Italian on the back of the slipcase, claims that it encloses an accurate representation of the Thames Tunnel, the peep reveals an interior more akin to that of an empty Romanesque church, with barrel vaults and sturdy pillars. The slipcase and front panel, on the other hand, are decorated with Gothic windows and tracery (see Gestetner 119 for a similar design). Although its peep-hole is extremely small, it does not jeopardise the viewing experience. On the contrary, the small opening forces the eye to narrow its focus on the inside panels and helps create an even more effective illusion of depth.

If this is indeed meant to represent the London tunnel, its empty archways also stand in stark contrast with other representation of the Tunnel, which always show the underground passages teaming with visitors. This, however, may not be such an unrealistic depiction as, by 1862, the Tunnel had lost much of its popularity and came to be seen as an urban ruin, where crime and disorder ruled. In 1865 it was sold to the East London Railway Company and converted into a railway tunnel in 1869. Today the Tunnel forms part of the London Overground network.

Physical description

Accordion-style paper peepshow of the Thames Tunnel.

4 cut-out panels. 1 peep-hole. Hand-coloured etching and lithograph. In a slipcase. Expands to approximately 45 cm.

Slipcase: engraving of a Gothic tracery pasted on a green background. The reverse side of the slipcase has the handwritten inscription in Italian: ‘Veduta del Tunnel sotto il Tamigi riconosciuta perfetta da Mr. Jugaro che la vedere ed ammirò percorrendolo nel 1862.’ It translates as ‘View of the Tunnel under the Thames perfectly recognised by Mr Jugaro who saw and admired it when he visited it in 1862.’

Front-face: the same image as on the slipcase but pasted on a cardboard with red outline. The peephole consists of a small opening in the middle.

Panels 1-3: representation of the Tunnel archway in the style of a Romanesque building.

Back panel: two people standing at the door of the archway; trees in the background. In the middle of the reverse side of the back panel is an opening in the shape of a door. Transparency paper is pasted at the back to allow for light.

Date

1862 (published)

Materials and Techniques

paper

Marks and inscriptions

The reverse side of the slipcase has the handwritten inscription in Italian: ‘Veduta del Tunnel sotto il Tamigi riconosciuta perfetta da Mr. Jugaro che la vedere ed ammirò percorrendolo nel 1862.’
‘View of the Tunnel under the Thames perfectly recognised by Mr Jugaro who saw and admired it when he visited it in 1862.’

Dimensions

Height: 10.5 cm, Width: 14.2 cm, Length: 45 cm

Object history note

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.

Descriptive line

[Thames Tunnel], 1862

Materials

Paper

Techniques

Lithograph

Categories

Paper Peepshow; National Art Library; Optical toys; Thames Tunnel

Collection

National Art Library

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