Show me:
and
Clear all filters

  • 25 items Explore
  • 35 items
  • 25 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 89 items
  • 3,445 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 42 items
  • 11,190 items Explore
  • 209 items Explore
  • 1,235 items Explore
  • 8,505 items Explore
  • 5,049 items Explore
  • 72 items Explore
  • 167 items Explore
  • 10,621 items Explore
  • 13,625 items Explore
  • 4,646 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 5 items
  • 153 items Explore
  • 2,038 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 4,758 items Explore
  • 24 items Explore
  • 437 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 19,205 items Explore
  • 34 items Explore
  • 1,027 items Explore
  • 1,113 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 2,396 items Explore
  • 456 items Explore
  • 29 items
  • 920 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 7 items
  • 19,415 items Explore
  • 791 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 73 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 800 items
  • 25 items
  • 61 items
  • 28 items
  • 319 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 44 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 145 items
  • 2 items
  • 9 items
  • 121 items Explore
  • 119 items
  • 1 items
  • 1,021 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 800 items
  • 95 items
  • 27 items
  • 108 items
  • 28,118 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,837 items Explore
  • 1,521 items Explore
  • 403 items
  • 158 items Explore
  • 9,743 items Explore
  • 9,685 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1 items
  • 39 items
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 5,138 items Explore
  • 7,443 items Explore
  • 4,433 items Explore
  • 1,536 items Explore
  • 930 items Explore
  • 3,493 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 334 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,444 items Explore
  • 20 items Explore
  • 354 items Explore
  • 797 items Explore
  • 1,095 items Explore
  • 510 items Explore
  • 1,047 items Explore
  • 1,138 items
  • 89 items
  • 125 items Explore
  • 6,953 items Explore
  • 170 items
  • 310 items
  • 4 items
  • 20 items
  • 61 items
  • 304 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,923 items Explore
  • 1,575 items Explore
  • 203 items
  • 43 items
  • 19,430 items Explore
  • 1,242 items Explore
  • 138 items
  • 843 items Explore
  • 32 items
  • 1 items
  • 132 items Explore
  • 24 items
  • 40 items
  • 20 items
  • 252 items
  • 314 items
  • 747 items Explore
  • 1,897 items
  • 349 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,426 items
  • 2,525 items
  • 3 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,390 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 34,601 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,285 items Explore
  • 274 items Explore
  • 8,067 items Explore
  • 31 items
  • 25 items
  • 732 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 65 items
  • 161 items
  • 52 items
  • 21,728 items Explore
  • 916 items
  • 18 items
  • 22,118 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,333 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,052 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 59 items
  • 499 items
  • 3,289 items Explore
  • 175 items
  • 453 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 21 items
  • 90 items Explore
  • 76 items
  • 281 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 6 items
  • 128 items
  • 293 items
  • 736 items
  • 868 items
  • 1 items
  • 369 items Explore
  • 272 items Explore
  • 11,301 items Explore
  • 760 items Explore
  • 6,029 items Explore
  • 11 items
  • 7,404 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 5,360 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 3,732 items Explore
  • 9,201 items Explore
  • 7,745 items Explore
  • 200 items
  • 19 items
  • 142 items
  • 7 items
  • 1,024 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 4,169 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,096 items Explore
  • 223 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,495 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 20 items
  • 696 items Explore
  • 18 items
  • 134 items
  • 6,652 items Explore
  • 14,231 items Explore
  • 3,127 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 8 items
  • 9,317 items Explore
  • 37 items
  • 2 items
  • 21,320 items Explore
  • 131 items
  • 38 items
  • 13,167 items Explore
  • 3,382 items Explore
  • 2,306 items Explore
  • 44 items
  • 41,415 items Explore
  • 637 items Explore
  • 415 items
  • 23,271 items Explore
  • 218 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 20 items
  • 27 items
  • 300 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 13,208 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 10,261 items
  • 9 items
  • 10 items
  • 14 items
  • 25 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,535 items Explore
  • 918 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 39 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 220 items
  • 702 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 2,284 items Explore
  • 1,662 items Explore
  • 15 items
  • 1,928 items Explore
  • 151 items
  • 84 items
  • 772 items Explore
  • 3,310 items Explore
  • 41 items
  • 17 items
  • 12 items
  • 10,655 items Explore
  • 23,089 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,374 items
  • 180 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 92 items
  • 13,323 items Explore
  • 3,572 items Explore
  • 2,652 items Explore
  • 4,776 items Explore
  • 22 items
  • 45 items
  • 6,899 items Explore
  • 4,796 items Explore
  • 272 items Explore
  • 2,300 items Explore
  • 2,922 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 1,862 items Explore
  • 291 items
  • 223 items Explore
  • 448 items Explore
  • 6,120 items Explore
  • 8,818 items Explore
  • 1,859 items Explore
  • 5,793 items Explore
  • 3,339 items Explore
  • 11,046 items Explore
  • 86 items
  • 11 items
  • 1,645 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 24 items
  • 51 items
  • 5 items
  • 1 items
  • 2,906 items Explore
  • 620 items Explore
  • 62 items
  • 17 items
  • 151 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 87 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 463 items
  • 996 items Explore
  • 3,604 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 9,402 items Explore
  • 48 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 42 items
  • 3 items
  • 13,714 items Explore
  • 1,169 items Explore
  • 92 items
  • 10,566 items Explore
  • 1,005 items Explore
  • 1,924 items
  • 7,133 items Explore
  • 21 items
  • 12,940 items Explore
  • 1,418 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 9,584 items Explore
  • 16,318 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,668 items Explore
  • 175 items
  • 58 items
  • 5,684 items Explore
  • 8,787 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 25 items
  • 2 items
  • 59 items
  • 3 items
  • 7,382 items Explore
  • 402 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 4 items
  • 1 items
  • 6 items
  • 4 items
  • 103 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 5 items
  • 480 items
  • 299 items Explore
  • 8,365 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 22,942 items Explore
  • 7,350 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 26 items
  • 3,829 items Explore
  • 464 items
  • 5 items
  • 339 items Explore
  • 12,691 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 20 items
  • 7 items
  • 4 items
  • 315 items Explore
  • 434 items
  • 183 items
  • 3,692 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1,228 items Explore
  • 2,494 items Explore
  • 732 items Explore
  • 36 items
  • 1,135 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 73,620 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,065 items Explore
  • 2,845 items Explore
  • 39 items
  • 3,615 items Explore
  • 1,832 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 17,324 items Explore
  • 5,508 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 633 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 1 items
  • 468 items
  • 39 items
  • 76 items
  • 29 items
  • 335 items
  • 3 items
  • 41 items
  • 1,176 items Explore
  • 109 items
  • 805 items
  • 17 items
  • 11,073 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 13 items
  • 1,546 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 214 items
  • 16,819 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 17 items
  • 1 items
  • 9 items
  • 8 items
  • 324 items
  • 2 items
  • 626 items Explore
  • 1,587 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 1,035 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 261 items

Select a time period

Or choose a specific year

Clear all filters

‘Beetle Wing Dress’ for Lady Macbeth

Alice Laura Comyns-Carr (1850-1927) and Adaline Cort Nettleship (1856-1932)  

Category

Costume

Date

1888

Materials

cotton, silk, lace, beetle-wing cases, glass, metal

Place of origin

London

Order this image

Collection

Smallhythe Place, Kent (Accredited Museum)

NT 1118839.1

Caption

This shimmering emerald-green dress, embroidered with iridescent beetle-wing cases, was created for Shakespeare’s villainess, Lady Macbeth. It was worn by the famous actress Ellen Terry (1847–1928) at the opening of Macbeth at the Lyceum Theatre in London in December 1888. Designed by Alice Laura Comyns-Carr (1850– 1927) and made by Adaline Cort Nettleship (1856–1932), the dress was designed to invoke fear. The addition of beetle-wing cases created the effect of scales, perfecting the terrifying spectacle. The whole outfit, which included a purple velvet cloak, contrasted with Terry’s long, dark red hair, which was plaited with gold. Starring opposite Terry was her long-time acting partner Henry Irving (1838–1905), and the play was one of the theatrical highlights of the 1888 social season. Terry’s performance and its powerful visual impact were immortalised the following year in a painting by the artist John Singer Sargent (Tate).

Summary

The ‘Beetle Wing Dress’ worn by actress Ellen Terry (1847–1928) for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth in Henry Irving’s production of Macbeth at the Lyceum Theatre, London in 1888 – 1889. The dress consists of a knitted bodice, crochet sleeves and skirt lined with a plain-weave silk. The dress is embellished with green iridescent beetle-wing cases designed to shimmer under stage lighting. The costume is accessorised with a bejewelled heather coloured cloak, costume jewellery, a belt and a hanging scabbard and knife. Terry had a separate costume team from the rest of the Lyceum company: the designer Alice Laura Comyns-Carr (1850– 1927) and dressmaker Adaline Cort Nettleship (1856–1932). Comyns-Carr’s design shows the influence of the work of contemporary artists such as Edward Burne-Jones (1833-98) who was her close associate but also references historical dress sources including an engraving of the gothic sculpture of Clotilde, queen of the Franks from Notre-Dame de Paris by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-79), a copy of which Terry pasted into the back of her working script.

Full description

On 29 December 1888 a packed auditorium at London’s Lyceum Theatre sat in anticipation of the opening of Henry Irving’s revival of Macbeth. In taking the male lead and casting Ellen Terry (1847-1928) as Lady Macbeth, Irving was reuniting one of British theatre’s most cherished acting partnerships. Moreover, audience curiosity was piqued by Terry’s departure from her usual role of Shakespearean heroine to play a plotting villainess. As the curtain rose, her appearance on stage immediately drew gasps. For she emerged wearing a costume of bewitching splendour, a dress of shimmering green embellished with iridescent beetle-wing cases, finished with a velvet heather-coloured cloak over which her dark red hair, plaited in gold, cascaded. Created by the esteemed costume designer Alice Laura Comyns-Carr and her dressmaker Ada Cort Nettleship, it was the first of three costumes intended to illustrate Lady Macbeth’s changing psychological state through the play. Inspired by a medieval effigy of Clotilde, queen of the Franks originally from Notre-Dame de Paris, Comyns-Carr combined the form of her open sleeved long gown and long braided hair surmounted by a crown with contemporary influences of artists in her circle, such as the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones. The dress’s green embodied the ruthless ambition and plot to murder of the play’s opening acts, while the crochet construction overlaid with beetle-wing cases combined the look of ‘soft chain armour’, with the ‘appearance of the scales of a serpent’. Although critics and theatregoers were divided over Terry’s characterisation, they were united on the visual impact of her performance. Her costume created an ethereal vision that ‘might have stood in the court of Camelot’. Oscar Wilde, noting the contrast between her dress and the austere garb of the male cast, quipped ‘Lady Macbeth seems an economical housekeeper, and evidently patronises local industries for her husband’s clothes and the servants’ liveries; but she takes care to do her own shopping in Byzantium’. The dress was further immortalised in John Singer Sargent’s commanding full-length portrait of Terry as Lady Macbeth in 1889 which pictured the dramatic moment Lady Macbeth claims her crown as witnessed by him on opening night.

Provenance

By descent to Edith Craig in 1928; the house and collections were given to the National Trust in 1939.

Makers and roles

Alice Laura Comyns-Carr (1850-1927) and Adaline Cort Nettleship (1856-1932)   , designer and dressmaker Alice Laura Comyns-Carr (1850-1927), designer Adaline Cort Nettleship (1856-1932), dressmaker

Exhibition history

Sargent and Fashion , Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA, 2023 - 2024 Sargent and Fashion , Tate Britain, London, 2023 - 2024

References

Auerbach 1987: Nina Auerbach, Ellen Terry: Player in her Time, Ontario, W.W.Norton and Company, 1987 Slocombe & Tinker, 2016. Slocombe, E. & Tinker, Z., ‘Dress in the Limelight’, in Brookes, M. M. & Eastop, D.D., 'Refashioning and Redress', Los Angeles, 2016 Slocombe 2011. Slocombe, E., ‘Lady Macbeth at the Lyceum’, in 'Historic Houses and Collections', 2011, pp. 4-11. Barratt 2011: Siobhan Barratt, 'Thousands of Irridescent Beetle Wings - Conserving Ellen Terry's iconic and celebrated Lady Macbeth costume', National Trust Arts/Buildings/Collections Bulletin, Summer Issue, July 2011, p.3

View more details