|Trentsensky Toy Theater, 1825-1880|
Victoria & Albert Museum
This toy theater is originally the work of famed toymaker, the Austrian-born, Matthias Trentsensky. Trentsensky began producing these paper theaters in Austria in 1790, using his brother Joseph’s name for the company. Such paper theaters were quite popular in England. Trentsensky exported many of these printed sheets for assembly in Britain.
The theater consists of a stiff paper-board proscenium, fabric-covered base and elaborately detailed paper backdrops. “Plays” would be staged in the theater by using paper dolls in intricately drawn costumes. This particular theater was assembled in Britain and remained in the same family until 1880. The owners added several of their own backdrops to the assortment of scenes that came with the theater.
This Trentensky Toy Theater is in remarkably good condition given its age and the amount of use that it endured for nearly sixty years. Today, it is on display at the Museum of Childhood at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
In Franco Zeffirelli's semi-autobiographical film, Tea with Mussolini, a similar paper theater was used. You can see it in this clip at about one minute in.