French Toy Theatre

Toy Theatre in France was also strongly influenced by the German tradition. All the publishers were found in Alsace and Lorraine. Wetzel of Weissenburg published proper Toy Theatre plays, some taken from German originals, these were continued by Burkhardt and Ackermann into the 1920s. However the best known   French Toy Theatre was published by the great publishing company of Pellerin in Epinal. It was very distinctive in style and very French, but for all that rather second rate. The Pellerin sheets were like its other cut-out products, intended to be made, set up and looked at but not performed. There were no Toy Theatre plays as such, only tableaux. The charm was there but it was slow developing. early sheets were small and cramped, the best theatre “Grand Theatre Nouveau” of 1889 was inspired by Schreiber competition and the need to produce something special for an exhibition. One unique feature of the French Toy Theatre was the use of gilding on sheets. A similar series was produced by another publisher, Gengel of Metz.

In the 1950s old Epinal sheets were considered virtually worthless and many were sold off as scrap paper. as years passed printsellers rediscovered them and prices have escalated. This resulted in Pellerin reprinting some of their original Toy Theatre designs. They sold a mixture of old sheets and reprints. Reprinting was done on traditional presses and the colouring using “Heath Robinson” style stencil painting machines. This venture has unfortunately now ceased.

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