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Theatre costume

  • Place of origin:


  • Date:

    mid 18th century

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Physical description

Theatre costume of blue and silver tinsel worn by a male performer in private court performances at the Meleto Castle, Tuscany, ca.1750.
The basic structure coarse hessian sewn together roughly with coarse linen thread, lacing down the back, using eyelet holes. Cuirass of fine white linen, covered with blue silk gauze, overlaid with flat silver strips, to accentuate its metallic appearance. The embroidered motifs romantic in style, of card and thread shapes covered with silver thread strip and purl in a stylized acanthus design, with central jewelled rosettes of paste glued to card. Two buttons at shoulder, presumably for the attachment of a cloak. Sleeves in three parts to represent the epaulettes, tunic and bare arms. Epaulettes of blue grosgrain with an overlaced silver weft strip, carrying an appliqued acanthus motif in silver thread with central jewelled motif. Tunic sleeves of white linen, could have been covered with blue gauze like the cuirass; both epaulettes, and tunic sleeves edged with silver passementerie made of silver fringe and tassels. Lower sleeves covered with pink silk tafetta. Peplum apron and tunic skirt covered with blue grosgrain with overlaid silver strip, edged with the silver fringe and tassels.

Place of Origin



mid 18th century


Length: 106 cm Approximate length of front shoulder to hem, Circumference: 93 cm Approximate circumference at waist, Length: 51 cm Approximate length of sleeve, Length: 45 cm Length from v-neck to skirt at front

Object history note

This costume comes from Meleto Castle in Tuscany, where there is a private theatre, which was opened in 1741. It is a very early example of a costume made specially for the stage and, although probably used in productions of plays, it was also undoubtedly used for masques and other entertainments which included dancing.

Sarah Woodcock & Philip Dyer, 1981.

Textiles Department of the V&A have confirmed that both fabric and embroidery cannot de dated more precisely that mid 18th century

Descriptive line

Theatre costume of blue and silver tinsel worn by a male performer in private court performances at the Meleto Castle, Tuscany, ca.1750.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Strong, Roy, Ivor Guest, Richard Buckle, Sarah C. Woodcock and Philip Dyer, Spotlight: four centuries of ballet costume, a tribute to the Royal Ballet, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1981.
Inaugural Conference for the Ricasoli Collection
Patrons, Politics, Music and Art in Italy, 1738-1859.
University of Louisville, March 14-18, 1989


Braid; Silk gauze; Fringe; Linen thread; Passementerie; Burlap; Linen (material); Paste (glass); Grosgrain; Taffeta; Tassel; Card


Theatre and Performance Collection

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