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Portrait of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

Portrait of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

Excerpts from The Actor and the Maker: Ellen Terry and Alice Comyns-Carr, Victoria and Albert Museum website:

The greatest English actress of the late 19th and early 20th century, Ellen Terry, exercised a great deal of control over what she wore on stage. She was leading lady to the legendary Actor-manager Henry Irving, at the Lyceum Theatre from 1878 to 1902 and during this period she devised many of her own costumes. Letters and memoirs chart her dealings with her advisors and makers and reveal the conflicts that can arise between the needs of the designer and the needs of the actor.

Originally, Terry's costumes were made by Patience Harris, but in 1887 she met costume advisor Alice Comyns-Carr whose ideas were diametrically opposed to Patience’s pretentious, elaborate creations. Alice introduced Ellen to the dressmaker Mrs Nettleship, who created occasional clothes for the actress’s personal wardrobe as well stage costumes.

When Ellen starred alongside Henry Irving in "Macbeth" in 1888, there was not a wide choice of fabrics available in England, and Alice could not find the colours she wanted to achieve her effects. She wanted one dress to ‘look as much like soft chain armour as I could, and yet have something that would give the appearance of the scales of a serpent. ’(Mrs. J. Comyns Carr’s 'Reminiscences'. London: Hutchinson, 1926). Mrs Nettleship found a twist of soft green silk and blue tinsel in Bohemia and this was crocheted to achieve the chain mail effect.

Link to the full article and the information source: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-actor-and-the-maker-ellen-terry-and-alice-comyns-carr/

Image Source: Circulating Collection, Print and Picture Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia. Subject: "Macbeth" -- Shakespeare.

Original image source: Portrait of Ellen Terry as "Lady Macbeth"  after the painting by John S. Sargent, etched by Gaston Machon. From William Walton's World's Columbian Exposition, vol.1, pt. 2, Art and architecture, Barrie: Phila., 1893

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