Ex libris Olive Custance

1897 (made)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E
Place Of Origin

Photogravure printed bookplate depicting an Edwardian woman in profile, seated in a theatre box. She wears an ornate hat topped with flowers and feathers.

object details
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Brief Description
Bookplate designed by Aubrey Beardsley for Olive Custance, the poet and wife of Alfred Lord Douglas. Great Britain, 1897.
Physical Description
Photogravure printed bookplate depicting an Edwardian woman in profile, seated in a theatre box. She wears an ornate hat topped with flowers and feathers.
Bibliographic References
  • The following text is from the 1899 acquisition register: E.358-1899 to E.556-1899 Photo-process prints Reproductions, chiefly proofs, of designs and illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley and his portrait. 199 sheets. Various sizes.
  • The following excerpt is from 'The Yellow Nineties Online'. Parker, Sarah, "Olive Custance", 2010: "Custance's first book of poetry, entitled Opals, was published in 1897 by Lane's press The Bodley Head. Shortly after this, she received a letter of admiration from Natalie Barney, a Parisian salon hostess who would become notorious for her openly lesbian poetry published in 1900 as Quelques Portraits-Sonnets de Femmes. Barney wooed Custance with several love poems and invited her to Paris, where Custance also befriended the symbolist poet Renée Vivien, one of Barney's former lovers. Accounts of this ménage are often contradictory; Barney’s autobiography Souvenirs Indiscrets (1960) states that she tried to persuade Custance to join her and Vivien in recreating a Sapphic community at Mytilene, but the endeavour was stymied by Vivien’s jealousy... Custance sustained contact with both Barney and Vivien after she moved back to London in 1901, and her diaries and poems suggest she continued to be attracted to and inspired by women. Custance’s most important and long-lasting relationship was with Lord Alfred Douglas, the poet and lover of Wilde... the match was threatened by Custance’s disapproving parents and Douglas’s tarnished reputation and dwindling funds, a result of his affair with Wilde. The couple eloped on 4 March 1902 and honeymooned in Paris. Olive Custance is one of a group of fin-de-siècle "female aesthete" poets who were "rediscovered" in late twentieth-century scholarship. Nevertheless, she remains relatively unknown even among scholars of the 1890s, except perhaps as the wife of Lord Alfred Douglas. But Custance was in fact connected to several key fin-de-siècle figures and at the heart of the late-Victorian literary scene. Her four published volumes and her contributions to The Yellow Book represent a strong, original response to the aesthetic of the period".
Accession Number

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record createdJune 30, 2009
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