A Victorian Fairground Hand-Painted Showcard; 'Latest Novelties to be Obtained Here'


Origin: English
Period: Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1890
Height: 20 inches
Width: 16 inches

A rare and eye-catching piece of fairground memorabilia, the text printed in green within a stylised scrollwork cartouche, with hand-painted purple and mauve floral groups at the sides and corners. The use of bright flowers in the design, and the flourishes on the text are very late Victorian in style, and combine to create a lovely and striking example of period design. Two of the corners are peeling but this is on the reverse and could easily be remedied or if framing then there would be no need.

The 'Latest Novelties' referred to in the sign could have been small magic tricks, stereoscope cards, postcards; or any of the various embellishments produced to persuade the growing Victorian middles classes to part with their coins, whilst they enjoy all the fun of the fair.

For hundreds of years the fairground was the domain of the actor and the jester, the magician and the minstrel, the puppeteer and the fire eater, the juggler and the tumbler. It was a place alive with "monsters" and it was a place where learned pigs mixed with giants and dwarfs and where most people saw "exotic" animals for the first time. Once upon a time it was even home to "a surprising large fish, affirmed to have had in her belly, when found, one thousand seven hundred mackerel."