Not currently on display at the V&A

Mirror

late 19th century (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This mirror belonged to Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the eminent late-Victorian actor-manager of Her Majesty's Theatre in London's West End.
From 1887, Tree was manager of the Haymarket Theatre. He restored the theatre's reputation to high prestige, performing in popular melodramas such as Trilbyand producing and starring in new drama including plays by Ibsen and Wilde. He furthermore mounted critically-acclaimed productions of Shakespeare including Hamletand The Merry Wives of Windsor. His reputation and profit from these productions meant that by 1897, he could help fund construction of Her Majesty's Theatre, which he subsequently managed. It was during his tenure here that he performed all three of the roles pictured on this mirror.

Painted by Tree as a make-up guide for future performances, the mirror features, clockwise from top, Falstaff from The Merry Wives of Windsor,Fagin from Oliver Twistand Svengali from Trilby. Tree was considered a versatile actor, taking on a number of roles, but criticism of his style focused on his external, superficial approach to character. His performances as tragic characters were mostly overshadowed by other contemporary actors, such as Irving, but in eccentric roles he excelled. The three characters pictured here - Svengali, an evil hypnotist; Fagin, a stereotyped leader of a band of robber children; and Falstaff, a fat, arrogant and cowardly knight - all played to Tree's strengths as an actor, being outlandish and exaggerated.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Paint on mirror
Brief Description
Make-up mirror from Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree's dressing room, painted by him with images of his make-up as Falstaff, Svengali and Fagin
Physical Description
Mirror with wooden frame, painted by Herbert Beerbohm Tree with images of the faces of Falstaff, Fagin and Svengali.
Dimensions
  • Height: 114cm
  • Width: 92cm
  • Includes mount for mirror plates depth: 5.5cm
Gallery Label
Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s make-up Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852–1917) was one of the most famous actor-managers of his era. He designed his own character make-ups for Falstaff, Fagin and Svengali and drew them onto this make-up mirror so he could copy them whenever he played the roles. The photograph shows Tree in The Man Who Was. He played two characters in the play, in this instance an escaped Siberian prisoner. [68 words] Mirror 1880–1900 Glass, greasepaint and wood Given by Tony Sympson Museum no. S.18-2008 Tree in The Man Who Was 1903 Play by Rudyard Kipling, 1890 His Majesty’s Theatre, London Photograph Museum no. 38041 701005811.1
Credit line
Given by Tony Sympson
Object history
Given to the British Theatre Museum Association by Tony Sympson
Literary References
  • Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Oliver Twist
  • Trilby
Summary
This mirror belonged to Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the eminent late-Victorian actor-manager of Her Majesty's Theatre in London's West End.

From 1887, Tree was manager of the Haymarket Theatre. He restored the theatre's reputation to high prestige, performing in popular melodramas such as Trilbyand producing and starring in new drama including plays by Ibsen and Wilde. He furthermore mounted critically-acclaimed productions of Shakespeare including Hamletand The Merry Wives of Windsor. His reputation and profit from these productions meant that by 1897, he could help fund construction of Her Majesty's Theatre, which he subsequently managed. It was during his tenure here that he performed all three of the roles pictured on this mirror.



Painted by Tree as a make-up guide for future performances, the mirror features, clockwise from top, Falstaff from The Merry Wives of Windsor,Fagin from Oliver Twistand Svengali from Trilby. Tree was considered a versatile actor, taking on a number of roles, but criticism of his style focused on his external, superficial approach to character. His performances as tragic characters were mostly overshadowed by other contemporary actors, such as Irving, but in eccentric roles he excelled. The three characters pictured here - Svengali, an evil hypnotist; Fagin, a stereotyped leader of a band of robber children; and Falstaff, a fat, arrogant and cowardly knight - all played to Tree's strengths as an actor, being outlandish and exaggerated.
Other Number
1964/G/99 - BTMA accession number
Collection
Accession Number
S.18-2008

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record createdFebruary 27, 2008
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