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Theatre costume
  • Theatre costume
    Hurry, Leslie, born 1909 - died 1978
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Theatre costume

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1943 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hurry, Leslie, born 1909 - died 1978 (costume designers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Papier maché, net, braid, artificial jewels and wire

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In classical ballets like Swan Lake, where the ballerina wears the traditional tutu, it is the costumes worn by the non-dancing or walking on roles which help establish time and place in the mind of the audience. This beautifully detailed, yet theatrical, headdress, from the Sadler's Wells (now Royal) Ballet's 1943 production, perfectly suggests a medieval setting, while still belonging to a fantasy world.

The designer of the production, Leslie Hurry, was relatively new to ballet design, having made his reputation as a surrealist painter. This made him an ideal choice to create the world of Swan Lake, where the realistic costumes of the court anchored the more flamboyantly dream-like sets and the basic unrealistic dance costumes. His designs were so successful that, with various reworkings, they were still in use thirty years later. By the 1970s, however, he had had enough and pleaded with the Royal Ballet never to ask him to design or revise the costumes again.

Physical description

Headdress for a Court Lady in Act I of Swan Lake, Sadler's Wells Ballet, New Theatre, 1943. Fantastical 'Medieval' headdress, loosely based on a 15th century hennin, the crown in the form of a tall 'cylinder', the sides moulded to the shape of the head at the base then curving upwards and outwards to a wide lip, the back and sides painted gold, at front a fan-shaped panel decorated with lines of pale gold braid and a moulded sea shell in pale gold. Above the panel curls of gold braid with artificial jewels. Above the lip an upper section angled to front and covered in gold mesh with a large oval moulded 'jewel' edged with braid to front. The top of lengths of intertwined gold braid with, at back, three wired lengths of gold braid curving backwards and joining together at end. From back hang long swathes of grey and black net threaded through the braid curves to hang to each side. Attached to the base at each side a petal-shaped panel of mesh edged with gold braid and decorated with artificial pearls, to back a grey mesh snood.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1943 (made)


Hurry, Leslie, born 1909 - died 1978 (costume designers)

Materials and Techniques

Papier maché, net, braid, artificial jewels and wire


Height: 66 cm, Width: 25 cm, Depth: 33 cm

Object history note

Headdress for a Court Lady in Act I of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov's ballet Swan Lake, performed by the Sadler's Wells (now Royal) Ballet, New Theatre, London, September 1943. The music for the ballet was composed by Tchaikovsky. The production was staged by Ninette de Valois after a recreation of the original 1895 St. Petersburg production made for the Sadler's Wells company in 1934 by Nicholai Sergeyev. The scenery and costumes were designed by Leslie Hurry, and the original cast included Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann.

Descriptive line

Headdress for a Court Lady in Act I of Swan Lake, Sadler's Wells Ballet, New Theatre, 1943


Papier-mâché; Net (textile); Braid; Artificial jewels; Wire


Sewing; Glueing; Forming; Painting


Entertainment & Leisure; Stage costumes; Hats & headwear


Theatre and Performance Collection

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