Friday, 20 July 2012

Sepia Saturday 135: Dame Hannah and Ruddigore

Sepia Saturday 135

A return this week to thespian themes on Sepia Saturday, and to a cabinet card portrait by Jacob Schmidt of Belper which I featured on Photo-Sleuth ten months ago.

Image © and courtesy of Robert Silverwood
Elizabeth Adshead of Belper, estd. c.1883-1886
Cabinet card by J. Schmidt of Belper
Image © and courtesy of Robert Silverwood

When I wrote about this portrait previously - Fancy dress or the height of fashion? - I was in two minds about whether or not the subject was wearing a costume for an amateur dramatic production, as suggested by relative Robert Silverwood. The general consensus amongst readers was in agreement with Robert, that is that it had to be a costume.

Unidentified woman in costume, estd. c.1883-1888
Cabinet card by J. Brennen of Derby

Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised then, to come across this cabinet portrait by Derby photographer James Brennen a few months later, but I found it remarkable how similar the two costumes, and poses, are to each other. To me, this makes the case for them being costumes in an amateur theatrical production even stronger.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Richard, Rose (Maybud) and Robin in Ruddigore
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With the research for a recent Photo-Sleuth article on The Mikado still fresh in my mind, I wondered whether this could have been another Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. Ruddigore seems to provide the most appropriate cast of characters, even though the first date of production by D'Oyly Carte (22nd January 1887) lies towards the end of my date estimates for these two portraits.

Rosina Brandram as Dame Hannah in Ruddigore
Courtesy of Memories of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company

This photograph of Rosina Brandram playing the role of Dame Hannah shows a very similar outfit to that depicted in the Schmidt and Brennen cabinets. I also found an 1892 reference to Dame Hannah being portrayed in "Quaker garb." Perhaps a reader more familiar with late Victorian musicals can suggest which other female theatrical roles might have employed such a costume?


  1. What fabulous photographs : such care and effort seems to have gone into photographs in those days compared with the instant fix of the cell-phone image of today.

  2. These are beautiful examples of the same outfit. The first one, tinted, is really pretty. The last dress must have been winter wear, it looks as if the woman is wearing a quilted blanket turned into a skirt!

    A very interesting and unique post, as yours always are. Thanks so much for the visit,

    Kathy M.

  3. Loved your images, especially the ones of "Ruddigore", which I saw a few weeks ago in Edinburgh with a production by Opera North.

  4. I haven’t seen Ruddigore in years, but I remember it as being great fun. The costumes are amazingly similar, even down to the quilted skirt look. The first picture is nicely coloured, although her cheeks are rather over-rouged!

  5. very interesting dresses. sure glad we don't have to wear those big, hot fashions these days.

  6. I remember that other discussion. Interesting to see other photographs so similar, even to the quilted skirts.

  7. My goodness they were just put together with such style and grace! A lovely design sure to keep them extremely warm! great post!

  8. Interesting similarities. I didn't realize at first that all the skirts were quilted. Now I wonder when that was a fashion.

  9. Another fascinating riddle, Brett. The Victorian fashion of producing amateur musicales for private parties seems like a good answer. I'll ponder on this question of suitable female characters this weekend and come back if I can find some other choices.

  10. The ladies look beautiful, but uncomfortable. I can't imagine wearing a quilted garment!! Those little hankies were sweat mops.

  11. You are right about the similarities, how interesting. It made me think that one rarely sees theatre costumes on display in museums (apart from the V&A) so hurray for photographs, especially grouped together like this.

  12. The woman in the first photo reminds me of a Gilbert Stuart painting of Abigail Adams.

  13. The costumes are nearly identical in makeup and I notice the women's poses are as well. Very interesting photos.

  14. Interesting, that connection to a theatrical production. Only you to find such gems.


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