The Beetlewing dress takes flight

The Beetlewing Dress at Smallhythe Place, worn by Ellen Terry in the role of Ladt Macbeth

Since its return to Smallhythe Place following major conservation work in 2011, the Beetlewing dress has continued to wow visitors. It made its first appearance at the Lyceum Theatre on December 31st, 1888 and was worn by the great actress Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, it was an electrifying combination. The dress was designed by Alice Comyns Carr, made by the dressmaker Mrs Nettleship and given life by Ellen Terry.

In the audience that first night was the American artist John Singer Sargent, so impressed was he by the dress and by the beauty and performance of Ellen Terry that he determined to paint her portrait as Lady Macbeth.

The painting caused a sensation when it was first exhibited at the New Gallery in Regent Street and Henry Irving bought it for the Lyceum.
 

Oil painting on canvas, Dame Ellen Terry (1847-1928) as Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, after John Singer Sargent, RA (Florence 1856 - London 1925).
Dame Ellen Terry (1847-1928) as 'Lady Macbeth' in William Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' by after John Singer Sargent, RA (Florence 1856 - London 1925)
Oil painting on canvas, Dame Ellen Terry (1847-1928) as Lady Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, after John Singer Sargent, RA (Florence 1856 - London 1925).

In 2021, for the first time in 130 years, there are plans to reunite the dress and the portrait in a major exhibition opening in London and then traveling to America.

The dress is being removed a year before the proposed exhibition begins so it can rest and be properly condition checked before the complex process of transportation can begin.

We will miss this iconic exhibit, but it will give us the chance to show some of Ellen Terrys other magnificent costumes from our collection here. 

Keep checking back here for all the details of the Beetlewing Dress' journey, we'll be updating this page about its travels.

A photograph of Dame (Alice) Ellen Terry in her role as Lady Macbeth, 1879, part of the Smallhythe collection.
A photograph of Dame (Alice) Ellen Terry in her role as Lady Macbeth, 1879, part of the Smallhythe collection.
A photograph of Dame (Alice) Ellen Terry in her role as Lady Macbeth, 1879, part of the Smallhythe collection.