Ellen Terry by John Singer Sargent (1889)

This fabulous portrait of the acting queen Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth is a stunner.

This is Terry at her peak, at age 42. This production featured the actress as a star in Sir Henry Irving’s company at the Lyceum Theatre in London. Irving directed but also played the role of the Scottish king.

The dress was woven out of iridescent green and blue tinsel yarn, and decorated with… beetle wings. It was apparently meant to look like both chain mail and snake scales. Wicked. Or wickedly sexy.

She holds Duncan’s crown above her head, and the rapt expression in her eyes says it all. This is the traditional Lady Macbeth whose ambition exceeds that of her husband… but Terry’s interpretation was unconventional in that she presented the Lady as young, fertile, sexual and sensuous. It has hung in the Tate Gallery in London since 1906.

This photograph is of Terry in her costume.

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One thought on “Ellen Terry by John Singer Sargent (1889)

  1. Madame de Pique says:

    I’ve always utterly loved Lady Macbeth’s character: a stunning dramatic femme fatale of both poetry and stage, beautiful and alluring, mischievous and egoistic and finally insane. this vivid Sargent portrait surprises it all so beautifully. i’m always intrigued by his way of capturing a person’s essence

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