The National Trust of England has announced that the Victorian dress adorned with 1000 jewel beetle wings has been brought back to its full glory after 1,300 hours of painstaking restoration work.
The glittering gown was worn by Ellen Terry, in the role of Lady Macbeth at London’s Lyceum Theatre in 1888.The emerald and sea green dress was one of the most celebrated costumes of the era, preserved by the John Singer Sargent portrait now on display at the Tate Gallery.
Ellen was known as the Queen of the Theatre and played opposite to Sir Henry Irving for over 20 years. She was known for her reincarnations of Shakespeare’s heroines. The Beetle wing dress was on top of the priority list of collections for the National Trust to preserve.
The dress is 120 years old and has much wear and tear. A successful fundraising campaign raised 50,000 pounds for the renovation work to be completed, which began last year.
Beetle wings as originally done were collected after falling off from the insects to reattach the missing ones. The 100 or so damaged wings were repaired using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.
The major challenge was to restore the fabric’s original texture and strength, which was duly completed. The conservation work was carried out by Brighton-based conservator Zenzie Tinker and her team.
The dress is now shifted to a new display space which also features items from Ellen’s dressing room that have never been shown before.