Dame Ellen Terry, Fanny Stirling
Oil on canvas
Juliet : Romeo and Juliet
Nurse : Romeo and Juliet
height (frame): 122cm
width (frame): 156cm
"Anna Lea Merritt / 1883" (b. r.)
Mrs Warren de la Rue; Maurice Oswald Smith, by whom presented to the Garrick Club, 1928
1980 Buxton, Museum and Art Gallery, "Shakespeare Heroines in the Nineteenth Century" (25)
Royal Shakespeare Theatre Picture Gallery (72) oil on canvas 92 x 54.6, inscr: "Anna Lea Merritt 1884" (figure of nurse only)
Anna Lea Merritt “My Journey Through Life from 1924” (1928, 1986)
The Nurse wears a dark green dress with sleeves slashed to reveal a dull red. Her underskirt is of green and gold brocade. Juliet sits on a low stool beside her. Her blue and gold brocade dress and cloak are edged with a band of red and gold embroidery. An Italian landscape is visible beyond the balcony behind them.
Anna Lea Merritt described sittings for this picture in her memoirs:
“Mrs. de la Rue… ordered a picture to represent Ellen Terry and Mrs. Stirling as the Nurse and Juliet they had recently acted. This was a great pleasure, for both the famous actresses gladly gave sittings in the costumes they had worn and the many choice pieces of Italian furniture, which my husband had left, fitted the scene to perfection. It was a pleasure too that the more I saw of Miss Terry the more sincerely I liked her, always generous and sympathetic and gifted. Mrs. Stirling had given my [younger sister] Marion lessons in elocution when she lived with me in her childhood; lessons to cure a Yankee inflection, which she did not forget.”
The production on which the picture is based opened at the Lyceum on 8 March 1882, and ran for 24 weeks. Irving spent £7,500 on an enormously elaborate staging, and restored Shakespeare's text, the first time that it had been heard since before Garrick's "improvements." When she tried to reform the traditional interpretation of Juliet, Ellen Terry faced opposition from Mrs Stirling, who had came out of retirement to play the nurse.
See also G0953 and G0954.