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Costume design - Princess Ida
  • Princess Ida
    Anderson, Percy, born 1851 - died 1928
  • Enlarge image

Princess Ida

  • Object:

    Costume design

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (designed)

  • Date:

    1922 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Anderson, Percy, born 1851 - died 1928 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on paper with cheesecloth

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Bridget D'Oyly Carte.
    The V&A wishes to acknowledge the generous support given by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, which facilitated the cataloguing of the D’Oyly Carte Archive designs in 2015/16.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan was produced at the Savoy Theatre under the management of Richard D’Oyly Carte on Saturday 5th January 1884 until Saturday 16th August 1884, and from Monday 15th September until Thursday 9th October 1884.

Agreeing on a new subject after Iolanthe proved difficult. Gilbert suggested his ‘magic lozenge’ plot in which characters magically transformed themselves by swallowing one - the idea he had used for his 1873 play The Wicked World. Sullivan wanted a story of more human interest, and eventually agreed on Princess Ida, Gilbert’s ‘respectful perversion’ of Tennyson’s 1847 narrative poem The Princess that Gilbert had previously dramatized in The Princess, staged at the Olympic Theatre in January 1870. Set in Castle Adamant where Princess Ida, the daughter of the crotchety King Gama, runs a women’s college, Princess Ida was a satire on women’s education, a controversial subject in 1847 when Queen’s College opened in London, and in 1870, the year after the establishment of Girton College, Cambridge. The only Gilbert and Sullivan three act opera, and the only one in blank verse, it contains some of Sullivan’s most operatic music but did not enjoy the lasting success of their previous works and was not revived in London during D’Oyly Carte’s management.

The artist and costume designer Percy Anderson (1851-1928) was based in London where he exhibited watercolours at the New Water Colour Society in 1886. He designed costumes for the original productions of the last four Gilbert and Sullivan operas at the Savoy Theatre - The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), The Gondoliers (1889), Utopia, Limited (1893), and The Grand Duke (1896), and for several D’Oyly Carte revivals including that for Utopia, Limited considered by Rupert D’Oyly Carte in 1926 and but never realised. Given Gilbert’s exacting attitude to his productions it is an accolade to Anderson that he worked with Gilbert on so many, including Gilbert and Edward German’s Fallen Fairies (1909), when Gilbert said Anderson: ‘surpassed himself’.

Anderson designed costumes for many other notable late 19th century productions including several by Herbert Beerbohm Tree at His Majesty’s Theatre, and musical comedies produced by George Edwardes at Daly’s Theatre such as San Toy (1899) and The Duchess of Dantzig (1903). Among his other successes were costumes for Oscar Ashe’s spectacular productions Kismet (1911), Chu Chin Chow (1916), and Cairo (1921). He also painted portraits including those of his great friend Edward Elgar (1905), Stephen Phillips (1902), and Joseph Conrad (1918).

Place of Origin

Great Britain (designed)


1922 (designed)


Anderson, Percy, born 1851 - died 1928 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on paper with cheesecloth


Height: 25.3 cm approximately, Width: 17.8 cm approximately

Descriptive line

Costume design by Percy Anderson for Chloe in Princess Ida, at the Princes Theatre, 1922


Watercolour; Pencil; Cheesecloth


Painting; Drawing


Entertainment & Leisure; Designs; Theatre


Theatre and Performance Collection

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