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Fine Art, Tinsel Collage, British Theater, Book of Esther, Antique Print, 19th Century


Mr. Palmer as Ahasuerus in the Triumph of the Jewish Queen
J. Redington, London: 19th Century
Hand-colored engraving and collage
7 x 7.25 inches, image
12.5 x 10.75 inches, framed overall

A Victorian British theatrical print, embellished with tinsel and other materials, in a 19th century maple veneer frame. The image is a costumed actor playing the role of King Ahasuerus on the London stage in a play based on the biblical Book of Esther, the “Jewish Queen” referred to in the print’s title. The print was embellished in the 19th century by an anonymous artist with watercolor and cut and collaged paper and beads in a Victorian genre known as “tinsel pictures.” The applied decorations here include blue and salmon-colored fabric, thin silver metal with embossed decoration, and gold and pearl beads. The ermine lining of the robe is rendered as collaged fabric hand painted with a row of black markings. The original engraving is numbered 13 and titled in the lower margin. It is from a large series of theatrical prints published by J. Redington in London. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has another tinsel print from this series, and notes, “They were popular during the first half of the 19th century and were considered an adult, rather than a child’s hobby. By the 1830s it was possible to buy the tinsel, leather and feather ornaments to go with each image.”

The Book of Esther tells the story of how Esther and her uncle Mordechai saved the Jews of Persia from the king’s advisor Haman, who sought to destroy them. Esther, a woman of remarkable beauty, is chosen as a wife by Ahasuerus before he knows that she is a Jew. She eventually exposes Haman’s treachery. The story is read in synagogues during the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Product description continues below.


Adding cutout collaged elements to engravings and lithographs was a popular pastime in Victorian England. The art of collage is related to the French art of decoupage — the use of cut outs from engravings applied to decorative arts, often varnished. Decoupage was popularized in the late 18th century as a pastime and art exercise for youths and ladies. This trend developed further in Victorian England:

[H]andcoloring and intricate cutting out gave way to the more sentimental, florid collage-style of [decoupage]. This coincided with the introduction of Valentine cards, decorative and embossed papers and braids to embellish surfaces such as screens, lamp bases, linen boxes and much more. Many a Victorian nanny taught her young charges to beautify objects by applying decorative paper pieces to them (Decoupage Artists Worldwide).

Collage was also used directly on other prints and works on paper. Genre prints of famous actors in costumes were frequent subjects for Victorian collage, as were images of medieval knights and jousters. Another common practice was to enhance fashion prints or natural history prints, particularly of monkeys. Among the materials used for collage were cutouts from other prints, fancy paper and shiny tinsel paper. Some artists also used fabrics, sewing notions, and sequins. Tinsel work was a special art as applied to a reverse painting on glass, but tinsel cutouts — sometimes with the addition of hand-incised details — were also was popularly applied as collage to prints:

Tinsel pictures are also allied with the 18th-century English art of decorating prints with textiles and colored paper. This was an art that later reflected the English addiction to the theater, when English people glorified prints of theatrical luminaries — threatening villains and romantic heroes and heroines — with little pieces of silver and gilt paper, paper stars and spangles, and little strips of red and blue paper. These English prints were also sold already decorated. Today they are coveted when framed in curly maple. […] Like so many earlier ”ladylike arts” —needlework and painting on velvet — American tinsel pictures were made in boarding schools (Rivera).

Full publication information: London Published by J. Redington, 73, Hoxton Street. Formerly called 208 Hoxton Old Town.

Condition: Print generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, soft creases.  Some cocking of paper, due to shrinkage of print relative to applied materials or paper backing. Collage costume elements added with glue, and print trimmed and mounted on supporting sheet, all by collage artist.  Frame with usual wear and shrinkage, minor chips to veneer.


“A Bit of History.” Decoupage Artists Worldwide. 2013. (5 June 2014).

Rivera, Betty. “Tinsel pictures: a forgotten folk art shimmers anew.” Christian Science Monitor. 8 December 1983. Online at Christian Science Monitor: (5 June 2014).

“Tinsel Print.” Victoria and Albert Museum. 2017. (23 August 2017).


Additional information


19th Century