Archive for the ‘Sargent, John Singer’ Category

Beetles, darling

March 18, 2011

©Zenzie Tinker

One of the most spectacular costumes worn by Ellen Terry, the queen of the Victorian and Edwardian stage, has gone back on display at Smallhythe Place, in Kent.

Hand-coloured photograph of Ellen Terry as Imogen in 'Cymbeline', 1896. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Ellen Terry was famous for her dramatic roles, and to enhance her interpretation of Lady Macbeth in the late 1880s she wore an extraordinary emerald and sea green gown adorned with the iridescent wings of the jewel beetle.

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, by John Singer Sargent, at Smallhythe Place. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

It gave her a silkily armoured, serpent-like appearance. She was portrayed wearing it by John Singer Sargent (one version of which is at Smallhythe, another, more finished, is at Tate Britain).

Smallhythe Place. ©NTPL/John Miller

The dress had been preserved at Smallhythe Place, the Kent cottage where Terry ended her days, but over time it had become increasingly fragile. Textile conservator Zenzie Tinker and her team were commissioned to restore the costume.  

©Zenzie Tinker

About 1,000 beetle wings were re-attached to the costume, both original ones and replacements that had been donated. The entire conservation process took 1,300 hours of work.

©Zenzie Tinker

Now the beetle wing dress is back at Smallhythe, in a new contemporary display space, together with other items from Terry’s dressing room which have never been shown before.

“Fabulous, darling”, as Ellen Terry might have said.

Update: More images cane be seen here on the Daily Mail website.

Sargent’s mug shots

March 14, 2011

Violet, Countess of Powis, by John Singer Sargent, 1912, at Powis Castle, Powys. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Last year we managed to acquire a charcoal sketch by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) of Violet, Countess of Powis (1856-1929), for Powis Castle. The portrait is redolent of the grandeur and style of Edwardian upper-class life.

Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent, at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Sargent was hugely successful as a portrait painter, but in 1907 he effectively abandoned portraiture in oils. He was financially independent and preferred to focus on landscapes and other subjects.

Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, by John Singer Sargent, 1913, at Mount Stewart, Co. Down. ©NTPL/John Hammond

However, he could not entirely escape the demands of his high society clientele, and in response to persistent demands he would agree to do a charcoal portrait, which he could finish in an hour or two.

Charles, seventh Marquess of Londonderry, by John Singer Sargent, 1910, at Mount Stewart, Co. Down. ©NTPL/John Hammond

More than 500 of these ‘mug shots’ (as he called them) are known. He originally charged twenty-one guineas for them, which rose to fifty around 1910 and later to a hundred.

Jenny, Lady Randolph Churchill, by John Singer Sargent, at Chartwell, Kent. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Celebrities captured by Sargent in this way include Winston Churchill, King Edward VII, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), Henry James, Vaslav Nijinsky and W.B. Yeats.

The purchase of the portrait of the Countess of Powis was supported by a grant from the Art Fund.