Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stage Couture 1896

Reproduction of an 1896 postcard of Victorian actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928) as the Shakespearean heroine Imogen. Dame Ellen wears a costume designed by British painter Laurence Alma Tadema (1836-1912) for a production of Cymbeline at the Lyceum in London by Henry Irving (1838-1905).

Alma Tadema's signature style of romantic-classical genre-scenes (examples below) fell completely out of fashion by the middle of the twentieth century. There came a point where dealers could honestly say the ornate gilt frames were worth more than the paintings they protected. Eventually of course this sort of fantasy-image surged back into the mainstream with a vengeance. Individual canvases now sell for many millions, the fresh momentum due as much as anything (in my opinion) to the old man's fashion sense, if the term can be taken to mean both the way he represents fabrics themselves and the way he imagines them draping his pretty mannequins.