Not currently on display at the V&A

Miss Clara Webster

Print
31/01/1845 (printed and published)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The ghostly quality of this print reflects the melancholy subject. Clara Webster was the white hope of British dance in the 1840s, the only English dancer who, it was felt, could become a rival to the great foreign ballerinas. It was not to be. In 1844, during a performance of The Revolt of the Harem, Clara's flimsy ballet skirts caught against one of the open gas jets that were used to light the stage in the days before electricity. She died three days later from her burns. Although there were ways of fireproofing fabrics, many dancers refused to use them as they stiffened the skirts and destroyed the ethereal illusion.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Etching and aquatint coloured by hand
Brief Description
Clara Webster. Coloured etching and aquatint drawn and engraved by G A Turner, 1845.
Physical Description
The dancer stands on point, half-turned to her right, on a stone-coloured floor against a 'sky' in tones of grey; her arms are down and her fingers interlaced against her skirt. Her brown hair is dressed in Victorian style, pulled back into a plaited coil at the back. Her off-the shoulder white dress is formed of a pleated bodice with short frills across the upper arms and the wide tiered skirt reaches to above the knee. Her shadow trails away behind her.
Dimensions
  • Height: 556mm
  • Width: 405mm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'MISS CLARA WEBSTER / From a Sketch taken previous to her Death and in the drefs she wore on the evening of her melancholy and fatal accident. / The Drawing is considered by Mrs Webster and her Son a most striking likenefs of their beloved and lamented relative.'
  • 'Burned to death on Drury Lane stage, 1844' (Facsimile)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Lady Mary Evans
Object history
"MISS CLARA WEBSTER / From a Sketch taken previous to her Death and in the drefs she wore on the evening of her melancholy and fatal accident. / The Drawing is considered by Mrs Webster and her Son a most striking likenefs of their beloved and lamented relative."

The ghostly quality of this print reflects the melancholy subject. Clara Webster was the white hope of British dance in the 1840s, the only English dancer who, it was felt, could become a rival to the great foreign ballerinas. It was not to be. In 1844, during a performance of The Revolt of the Harem, Clara’s flimsy ballet skirts caught against one of the open gas jets that were used to light the stage in the days before electricity. She died three days later from her burns.

This print was issued as a memorial.
Subject depicted
Summary
The ghostly quality of this print reflects the melancholy subject. Clara Webster was the white hope of British dance in the 1840s, the only English dancer who, it was felt, could become a rival to the great foreign ballerinas. It was not to be. In 1844, during a performance of The Revolt of the Harem, Clara's flimsy ballet skirts caught against one of the open gas jets that were used to light the stage in the days before electricity. She died three days later from her burns. Although there were ways of fireproofing fabrics, many dancers refused to use them as they stiffened the skirts and destroyed the ethereal illusion.
Collection
Accession Number
S.2619-1986

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record createdAugust 24, 2004
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