Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Set design
  • Set design
    Messel, Oliver Hilary Sambourne, born 1904 - died 1978
  • Enlarge image

Set design

  • Place of origin:

    London (designed)

  • Date:

    ca.1949 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Charcoal, gouache and watercolour on tracing paper and acetate

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:

    S.256-2006

  • 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.

Ring Round the Moon, a translation of Jean Anouilh's play L'Invitation au Château by Christopher Fry, was first performed at the Globe Theatre (now the Gielgud Theatre), in 1950. It enjoyed a substantial run in the West End before moving to New York. Peter Brook, the director, suggested that the setting should be a winter garden or hothouse with plants and trees. Although untypical of Messel’s style, the set is one of his most memorable designs, and complemented the elegance and fantasy of Fry’s poetic drama.

The set featured a light projection of brightly coloured butterflies in the hothouse. Messel drew the butterflies on tracing paper attached to a sheet of clear acetate film to imitate the transparent effect of a light projection.

Physical description

A charcoal and watercolour sketch of butterflies by Oliver Messel for Ring Round the Moon, Globe Theatre, 1950. Tracing paper attached with sellotape to a sheet of acetate.

Place of Origin

London (designed)

Date

ca.1949 (designed)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Charcoal, gouache and watercolour on tracing paper and acetate

Dimensions

Height: 30.2 cm, Width: 43.4 cm

Object history note

Ring Round the Moon, a translation of Jean Anouilh's play L’Invitation au Château (1947) by Christopher Fry, was first performed at the Globe Theatre, London (now the Gielgud Theatre), on 26 January 1950. The production, presented by H. M. Tennent Productions Ltd, was directed by Peter Brook, with a cast that included Paul Scofield, Claire Bloom and Margaret Rutherford.

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: The set for Ring Round the Moon is one of Messel's most famed set designs.

Descriptive line

Set design by Oliver Messel for butterflies in Jean Anouilh's play Ring Round the Moon (translated by Christopher Fry), Globe Theatre, London, 1950.

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

Materials

Charcoal; Paper; Gouache; Watercolour; Tracing paper; Acetate; Sellotape

Techniques

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

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure; Designs

Production Type

Design

Collection

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.