Empress Eugenie's Evening Bodice to go on Display in V&A blockbuster
Empress Eugenie's Evening Bodice to go on Display in V&A blockbuster

Empress Eugenie's Evening Bodice to go on Display in V&A blockbuster

An evening bodice from The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, worn by Empress Eugénie of France, is to go on show in a landmark exhibition at the V&A in London.

The original bodice, together with a newly created matching skirt, is one of the highlights of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, which opens on Saturday 30th September 2017 – the first show in The Sainsbury Gallery, the museum’s purpose-built exhibition space within the new V&A Exhibition Road Quarter.

“The exhibition curator Kate Bailey wanted a beautiful mid 19th Century dress that had been worn to the Opera, and as the Empress was a devotee the idea of recreating a skirt to match her bodice especially for this show, was born,” said Joanna Hashagen, Curator of Fashion & Textiles at The Bowes Museum.

Renowned historical and theatrical costumier Luca Costigliolo was invited to reconstruct the flounced skirt, which was funded by the V&A, but before work could commence the first challenge involved working out the pattern repeat of the original bodice, a difficult and intricate task because of its tiny size and style.

An innovative solution to the problem was provided by Leon Maurice, senior lecturer, School of Design, at Northumbria University, who was able to digitally work out the pattern repeat, leading to his creating a digital print of meandering trails of flowers to mirror the woven chiné pattern of the bodice, a technique previously untried.

The next step was to source the silk fabric from Como in Luca’s native Italy, which was then printed by the Centre for Advanced Textiles at Glasgow School of Art, using Leon’s digital design.

“We are delighted to loan the bodice to the V&A for this stunning exhibition, and thrilled that they were willing to fund Luca to make the beautifully matching skirt,” said Joanna. “Luca and Leon are true experts in their field, and each has done us proud. The original bodice and new skirt look amazing together and form an important part of the exhibition.”


Notes to editors:

For further information or images of the bodice/skirt contact sheila.dixon@thebowesmuseum.org.uk

·          The Bowes Museum was created over 100 years ago by an extraordinary couple, John and Joséphine Bowes.  Together they built up the greatest private collection of fine and decorative arts in the North of England and constructed a magnificent building to house them in.  The collection contains thousands of objects including furniture, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and many other items covering an extensive range of European styles and periods. 

·          The Bowes Museum receives a core funding grant from Durham County Council and as a Major Portfolio Museum receives support from Arts Council England.

·          The Bowes Museum has undergone major redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, One NorthEast through the County Durham Economic Partnership, English Heritage, Northern Rock Foundation, The Monument Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The European Regional Development Fund, DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund, Designation Challenge Fund, The Shears Foundation, The Richard and Suzanna Tonks Family Fund at County Durham Foundation, Durham County Council, The Friends of The Bowes Museum, The Headley Trust, Sir James Knott Trust, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Fenwick Ltd, Mercers Charitable Foundation, Welton Foundation.

·          The Bowes Museum is a member of the Discover Durham partnership of attractions. Our commitment is to promote Durham as an exciting and vibrant group travel destination and to provide the travel trade with a professional and knowledgeable service: hotline number 0191 301 8531, www.discoverdurham.co.uk

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics

In collaboration with the Royal Opera House

Sponsored by Societe Generale

The Sainsbury Gallery | 30 September 2017 – 25 February 2018

This autumn the Victoria and Albert Museum, in collaboration with the Royal Opera House, will create a vivid and immersive journey through nearly 400 years of opera, exploring its passion, power and politics. The only exhibition ever to explore opera on a grand scale, it will immerse visitors in some key moments of the history of European opera from its roots in Renaissance Italy to its present-day form, by focusing on seven operatic premieres in seven cities. It will reveal how opera brings together multiple art forms to create a multi-sensory work of art, and show how social, political, artistic and economic factors interact with great moments in the history of opera to tell a story of Europe over hundreds of years.

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