Hi! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’d like to start posting again. Today’s painting is “Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth”, by John Singer Sargent. I am especially excited about talking this painting over with you because I’ve just seen it in person, at the Tate Gallery in London.
This painting has a fascinating history. It is a portrait of the famous stage actress Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, a part she was celebrated for. Here’s a picture of a young Ellen Terry taken by one of my favorite photographers, Julia Margaret Cameron, in 1864:
I got that photo from The Getty’s wondeful website.
The dress in this painting has recently been fixed-up! You can read a great article about in here. I was astonished to learn that those are BEETLE WINGS which glitter all over the dress.
This painting gives me a feeling of how Ellen Terry played Lady Macbeth. Look at the way Terry’s eyes are widening. Look at how she holds the crown with both hands and all of her fingers, as though there’s something ceremonial about the way she’s putting the crown on her head – not as though she’s putting on the crown like an article of clothing, but as though she’s performing an actual corination. “Macbeth” certainly is a play about conflating symbolism with reality: maybe Lady Macbeth actually believes that if she has the crown, she has a ruler’s power.
What does this painting make you think about Ellen Terry? Does it remind you of any theater you’ve seen? How does it match up with your image of Lady Macbeth?
I got the image of “Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth” from Artchive.