Tuesday, July 12, 2011

There was recycling in them olden days

This is a magnificent portrait of the actress Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth painted by John Singer Sargeant. The photograph below is a sepia image of the actress in the same dress taken in 1888. Ellen Terry was famed for her portrayal of Shakespearean heroines and was mobbed by fans wherever she went.

The dress has just been restored at a cost of 50,000 pounds and that glittering shimmering gown was covered in irridescent green beetle wings, 1000 of them. No beetles were harmed in the making of the dress as the wings are naturally shed as part of their life cycle. The conservators collected the beetle wings that had fallen off the dress and had others donated to them.

"One of Mrs. Nettleship’s greatest triumphs was my Lady Macbeth dress…The picture of me is nearly finished, and I think it is magnificent. The green and blue of the dress is splendid, and the expression as Lady Macbeth holds the crown over her head is quite wonderful . . ." wrote Ellen in her diary in 1888.

The dress is 120 years old and the majority of the work was strengthening the fabric after the wear and tear of those years. Two years to raise the funds necessary and over 1,300 hours to repair and to bring it back to its former glory. The work was carried out by expert Zensie Tinker and her team and the dress will now be on display, along with items from Ellen's dressing room, at Smallhythe Place in Kent, a house dedicated to theatre history and stage costumes.

This fashionable dress from the British Museum is also decorated in the same beetle wings so Ellen's frock wasn't a once off.


The Elephant's Child said...

Oh wow! And did you notice the tiny waist on that second gown? I think I was born with a bigger waist than that.

River said...

Those beautiful and beautifully restored dresses are so different from today's "fall apart at the first wash, throw away rags" that pass for clothes these days.
I bet they weren't Made in China.

JahTeh said...

EC, neither of us could have endured the corsetry needed for that waist. At the Daily Mail yesterday they had a photo of Duchess Catherine and Our Nicole and Catherine was the thinner. Now that is skinny, plus Catherine's boobs have disappeared in the weight loss.

River, In that age, any garment made in China was unbelievable. Leaving aside the peasants rags, plenty of those, but the elite silk embroidered robes were stunning. The rubbish these days makes one yearn for the days of "made in Taiwan" and we thought that was bad.

Ro said...

Those gowns are just stunning!
The money is well worth the expense in their restoration.

Just read the feline passed - I'm so sorry , (((hugs))) and xxx

R.H. said...

hello me little sweetiepie sugar plums you know it's me, RH, loving you like a pimp out on bail; no bull, no pretence, no pissant words of latte/feminism. I had a dream last night where a bloke showed me a photo of his ex-missus and I knew I had to praise her looks. Even though he thoroughly despised her. What a convention. Really she looked ugly but you can't say that, it's having a go at the poor bastard for marrying her. "Good looking," I said, sounding a little taken aback. Him: "Good looking? Yeah, and a fucken moll." Usual thing.

Nice clobber but I wouldn't want a bird with a waist like that, they demand too much.'The rubbish these days makes one yearn for the days of "made in Taiwan" and we thought that was bad.'

Miss J your wit is first rate.

Middle Child said...

How very beautiful the dress is and how wonderful to still ahve all of this

Gerry said...

JT, you're not fooling anyone. We all know this is part of your sexist campaign to make your blog a Bloke Free Zone. Grrrrrr...


(I couldn't think of anything else to say. Must be a bloke thing...)

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

What an incredible dress! I'd love to see it, but ...

I hate to disabuse you of the notion that beetles 'shed their wings naturally', but I'm afraid they don't. Only adult beetles have those gloriously colourful - and hard - elytra, and adult beetles do not undergo a further moult.

JahTeh said...

Ro, I'm still getting up early to put the fire on for her, that's how well she had me trained. We are their servants.

Robbert, a gentleman took great pride in being able to unlace the corsets of his desirable. Apparently it was half the fun of an afternoon of seduction. I'd like to see a poor bloke unlace my corset, a bit like Moby Dick exploding out of a lobster pot.

Therese, the shimmering affect would have looked brilliant in the lights of the old theatres. I never thought of Lady Macbeth as a heroine though.

Bear, you don't like dress posts, Robbert hates geology so if you're both not careful I'll find a copy machine and sit on it, print out and post. You'll have something to complain about then.

Dang it, JDE, I knew there'd be a lack of humanity somewhere. If the wings had come off locusts I wouldn't have minded. Now all I can think of is the craze for jewelled beetles on a chain as brooches back in the sixties.