(CIRCUS). (TOY THEATRE). ~ Grand Equestrian Feat, called the Peasant Frolic. As performed at Astley’s Amphitheatre. Price 4d 1/2 Plain. [London]: W[illiam]. West at his Theatrical Warehouse, Exeter Street, Strand, Apr[i]l 14, 1821.
Large etched plate (330 × 410 mm). Very lightly browned, two vertical folds, a few further creases and short tears at lower margin. An excellent survival.
A rare large-format toy theatre print with figures for cutting out and mounting from a performance at Astley’s Amphitheatre, which was then managed by Andrew Ducrow, the father of circus equestrianism. The plate is unsigned other than by the publisher William West and is unattributed in the British Museum print catalogue, but it is of high quality. The BM copy was acquired with the nineteenth-century collection of toy theatre prints assembled by Ralph Thomas, who had made a tentative attribution to William Blake in Notes and Queries in 1898 (June 4th, p. 455). The British Museum did not adopt the attribution, though there is certainly something of Blake’s style in the print. William West was the pioneer of the Regency toy theatre print, commissioning work from both Cruickshank brothers, Flaxman, Dighton and Brooke.