These are watercolour set designs for an extravagant production of The Tempest staged by Charles Kean at the Princess’s Theatre, London in 1857. The designs come from Kean’s prompt book – a copy of the play script which includes the producer’s notes on staging and scenery.

Kean’s production was arguably the most lavish version of The Tempest ever staged. Although the text was cut, it took five hours to perform and required over 140 stage hands to move the scenery. The Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen witnessed it and commented that, ‘Everything was afforded that machinery and stage direction can provide, and yet after seeing it, one felt overwhelmed, tired and empty.’