Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Set model - Set model for Die Entführung aus dem Serail
  • Set model for Die Entführung aus dem Serail
    Messel, Oliver Hilary Sambourne, born 1904 - died 1978
  • Enlarge image

Set model for Die Entführung aus dem Serail

  • Object:

    Set model

  • Place of origin:

    London (designed)

  • Date:

    1956 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Messel, Oliver Hilary Sambourne, born 1904 - died 1978 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood, cardboard, fabric, and paint.

  • Credit Line:

    Acquired with the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Art Fund and the Friends of the V&A

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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.

Mozart’s comic opera The Abduction from the Seraglio was one of four Mozart operas performed at Glyndebourne in 1956 to celebrate the bi-centenary of his birth. Messel’s exuberant designs are inspired by 18th-century Western European art and design and its fascination for the Orient, in harmony with the light-hearted spirit of Mozart’s opera.

Messel borrowed motifs from engravings of Turkish buildings and Oriental style pavilions depicted in English tapestries and Meissen porcelain for the architecture of Selim’s palace and garden. He used painted acetate to create an effect of intricate lattice work. The platform features a palm tree, paraosl and cushions, indicating the exotic location and air of indolent luxury in the palace garden on the Turkish coast.

Physical description

Set model by Oliver Messel for Selim's palace garden, Act III, in a Glyndebourne production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, 1956. A wooden box containing the set. the box is carved and painted with baroque decoration. The box is fringed in gold thread, and two columns are painted on the box frame, indicating the open window of the model. The set is composed of cutcloths and a backcloth. A yellow curtain painted on card hangs by rings and gold thread at the opening. Also a false proscenium arch in blue, with Baroque decoration. Two arches painted white on acetate either side of the opening. Cypress trees in gauze and paint. Central platform with palm tree and umbrella and cushions. To the rear, a series of Eastern arches, and beyond, leafy vegtation and the towers of Selim's palace. Blue sky backdrop.

Place of Origin

London (designed)


1956 (designed)


Messel, Oliver Hilary Sambourne, born 1904 - died 1978 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Wood, cardboard, fabric, and paint.


Height: 61 cm, Depth: 43.5 cm, Width: 63.5 cm

Object history note

Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782), an opera in two acts by Mozart with libretto by Bretzner. Oliver Messel’s production was first performed by Glyndebourne Festival Opera at Glyndebourne on 10 June 1956; directed by Peter Ebert and featuring Ernst Häefliger as Belmonte and Arnold Van Mill as Osmin. It was revived at Glyndebourne in 1957 and 1961.
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.

Descriptive line

Set model by Oliver Messel for Selim's garden, Act III, in Mozart's opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Glyndebourne 1956.

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

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)

Production Note

Reason For Production: Commission


Pencil; Paper; Watercolour; Gouache; Kaolinite; Wood; Card; Acetate; Wire; Glue; Gauze; Plasticine; Masking tape; Perspex


Drawing (image-making); Painting (image making); Glueing


Entertainment & Leisure

Production Type



Theatre and Performance Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.