A stage costume worn by Ellen Terry, one of the most celebrated and glamorous actresses of the Victorian age, has now returned home to Smallhythe Place in Kent – now a National Trust property.
The emerald and sea green gown, covered with the iridescent wings of the jewel beetle (which they shed naturally), was worn by Ellen when she thrilled audiences with her portrayal of Lady Macbeth at London’s Lyceum Theatre in 1888.
It was one of the most iconic and celebrated theatre costumes of the time, immortalised by the John Singer Sargent portrait now on display at the Tate Gallery.
Known as the Queen of the Theatre, Ellen was mobbed by fans wherever she went. She played opposite Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre for over 20 years and was famed for her portrayal of Shakespearean heroines.
As one of the most important items in the collection, the Beetle Wing dress was on the priority list to be conserved.
At over 120 years old, the dress had seen many years of wear and tear and was subject to much alteration. It was structurally very weak and a shadow of its original self. Two years ago the intricate process of conserving it began.