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Title: Stage costume and the representation of history in Britain, 1776-1834
Author: Musset, Anne
ISNI:       0000 0004 6423 0171
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis explores the relationships between stage costume and British historical culture in the period 1776-1834. Until the painstakingly researched antiquarian stagings of the mid-nineteenth century, the history of historical stage costume has typically been described in terms of a stereotyped ‘Van Dyck dress’. Yet the period witnessed the expansion of antiquarianism and portrait print collecting, the development of the Picturesque and Neo-Gothic aesthetics, the success of historical novels and a general desire to know more about the habits and costumes of the past. This interdisciplinary analysis situates stage costume within the wider visual and historical culture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Drawing on theatrical material related to the London theatres as well as paintings, engravings, book illustrations, shows and exhibitions, this study argues that the representation of historical stage costume in the visual arts reflects new ways of conceiving and depicting history, in which interest in the everyday life of past periods and a focus on the material and the visual were fundamental. My research suggests that historical costume in the theatre and its representation in theatrical portraiture played a role in a broader process that sought to define British art and identity. The first chapter maps out advances in the knowledge of historical dress and explores how historical costume became a key feature in theatrical portraiture. The second chapter explores contemporary conceptions and uses of anachronism in relation to shifting notions of historical truth in the representation of dress in the arts. The third chapter demonstrates how costume was used to create visual representations of historical continuity, a process that signalled new conceptions of historiography. The following three chapters focus on depictions of the costume of different periods. They suggest that representations of historical dress in the theatre helped shape the period’s historical imagination. A study of classical costume enables an examination of contemporary debates about authenticity, while reconstructions of Scottish dress and English medieval costume reflect prevalent aesthetic trends and thoughts about British identity and the responsibility of art and the theatre in teaching national history. The final chapter considers representations of historical figures beyond the theatre: an examination of portraits in extra-illustrated books and of tinselled toy theatre sheets demonstrates novel ways of engaging with history that evince a new concern with the materiality of stage costume and effected a theatricalisation of the past.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Ministère de l'enseignement supérieur et de la recherche, France ; University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater