Not currently on display at the V&A

Costume Design

1954 (designed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Great Britain’s leading theatre designer from the early 1930s to the mid 1950s, Oliver Messel (1904-1978) won international acclaim for his lavish, painterly and poetic designs informed by period styles. His work spans ballet, drama, film, musical, opera and revue. Messel’s traditional style of theatre design became unfashionable from the mid 1950s onwards, and he increasingly concentrated on painting, interior and textile design, including designing luxury homes in the Caribbean.

Rossini’s opera Le Comte Ory is set in medieval rural France. Countess Adèle is alone with her ladies at Castle Formoutiers while the men are away on a Crusade. Count Ory disguises himself as a hermit and nun to penetrate the Castle so that he can court the Countess. Appropriately, Messel designed medieval costumes and sets for the production at Glyndebourne in 1954, inspired by fifteenth century French and Netherlandish decorative art and paintings.

The Count disguises himself as a hermit and advises Countess Adèle to fall in love as a cure for melancholy. Messel continues the use of cool, pastel tones, the predominant costume colours of the production, such as the pale blue hat with a pale yellow lip; purple beads add a splash of warmer colour.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Charcoal, pencil, gouache, paint, watercolour on paper
Brief Description
Costume design by Oliver Messel for the Count Ory disguised as a Hermit in Rossini's opera Le Comte Ory, Glyndebourne 1954.
Physical Description
Costume design by Oliver Messel for The Comte Ory disguised as a hermit, in a Glyndebourne production of Le Comte Ory, 1954. The Count Ory is depicted in full length, sitting turned toward the right reading a book. An old man with a long grey-blue beard, he wears a fur coat in gold, orange and brown, with orange/red boots. His headdress consists of a grey-blue pointed hat with yellow lip. Purple beads hang from his finger and the book in his lap is open at a page with the inscription 'I LOVE YOU'.
Dimensions
  • Height: 37.8cm
  • Width: 25.2cm
Production typeDesign
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'Oliver Messel' (Artist's signature in pencil on the bottom right-hand corner on the front of the sheet.)
  • '2 ladies with countess. act I. / The Countess act I / One lady with Countess act I. / One more act 2. / Ragonda / 4 ladies / 2 ladies or 4. / ladies' 2 / 2 ladies' The Countess act 2. ' (Ink inscriptions on the front of the sheet.)
Credit line
Acquired with the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Art Fund and the Friends of the V&A
Object history
Le Comte Ory (1828), an opera in two acts composed by Rossini with a libretto by Scribe and Poirson. Oliver Messel’s production was first performed at the Edinburgh International Festival by the Glyndebourne Festival Society on 23 August, 1954. It was directed by Carl Ebert; choreography by Pauline Grant and featured Bruscantini as Raimbaud and Oncina as Count Ory. It was revived in 1955, 1957 and 1958 at Glyndebourne and in 1958 in Paris. Roger Pinkham has said of this production that “Messel concentrated on such designs as are found in the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, and in Flemish and Netherlandish painting.” (Pinkham, ed., 1983)

Lord Snowdon, Oliver Messel's nephew, inherited Messel's theatre designs and other designs and artefacts. The designs were briefly stored in a disused chapel in Kensington Palace before being housed at the V&A from 1981 on indefinite loan. The V&A Theatre Museum purchased the Oliver Messel collection from Lord Snowdon in 2005.



Historical significance: Messel worked for Glyndebourne from 1951 to 1959, when he was at the height of his popularity as a designer for the stage. His work for Glyndebourne in this period is regarded as some of his best designs.
Production
Reason For Production: Commission
Summary
Great Britain’s leading theatre designer from the early 1930s to the mid 1950s, Oliver Messel (1904-1978) won international acclaim for his lavish, painterly and poetic designs informed by period styles. His work spans ballet, drama, film, musical, opera and revue. Messel’s traditional style of theatre design became unfashionable from the mid 1950s onwards, and he increasingly concentrated on painting, interior and textile design, including designing luxury homes in the Caribbean.



Rossini’s opera Le Comte Ory is set in medieval rural France. Countess Adèle is alone with her ladies at Castle Formoutiers while the men are away on a Crusade. Count Ory disguises himself as a hermit and nun to penetrate the Castle so that he can court the Countess. Appropriately, Messel designed medieval costumes and sets for the production at Glyndebourne in 1954, inspired by fifteenth century French and Netherlandish decorative art and paintings.



The Count disguises himself as a hermit and advises Countess Adèle to fall in love as a cure for melancholy. Messel continues the use of cool, pastel tones, the predominant costume colours of the production, such as the pale blue hat with a pale yellow lip; purple beads add a splash of warmer colour.
Bibliographic Reference
Pinkham, Roger (ed.) Oliver Messel: an exhibition held at the Theatre Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, 22 June - 30 September 1983. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983. 200p., ill ISBN 0905209508)
Other Number
ROT 550 - TM Rotation Number
Collection
Accession Number
S.58-2006

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record createdMay 16, 2006
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