Designs for Cleopatra XXIII by Oliver Messel



Title

Designs for Cleopatra XXIII

Artist

Oliver Messel

Ref GM171
Type Fine Art Print
Image Size 15" x 21" (38 x 53 cm)
Price Add to basket
Description  
This original drawing by Oliver Messel is part of a unique collection of costume designs from the 1946 film Caesar and Cleopatra, directed by Gabriel Pascal and starring Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains. When filming ended, over 50 drawings were shipped back to the UK and stored in their original wooden box at a private home in the south of England. Undisturbed for over 50 years, the collection was put on public display in 2006. Nominated for best Art Direction in 1947, Caesar and Cleopatra is a sumptuous tale with elaborate and finely detailed costumes and sets. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Messel’s costume designs for Vivien Leigh are some of the most lavish and theatrical of the film. Sketched onto paper, the designs include vibrant accents of colour and pattern, implying ornate Egyptian detail, intricate beadwork or lavish jewels. The fabric is fluid and loose and drapes across simple sketched figures. Marjorie Deans, scriptwriter for Caesar and Cleopatra described the costumes: “Authentic antique Egyptian jewellery was copied in thin wire, plastics, cellophane, bits of glass – anything Messel and his talented staff or assistants could lay their hands on… All of the costume pieces had to be specially designed and made for the picture and every last bird and bead and arabesque was the outcome of meticulous research combined with Messel’s individual artistry.” For Messel, Caesar and Cleopatra provided another arena in which to showcase his theatrical flair. In total, he designed costumes and sets for eight films, which included Romeo and Juliet in 1936, The Thief of Baghdad in 1940 and Suddenly, Last Summer in 1959, with Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. This elegant sketch shows one of the more modest of Messel’s costumes. Her head covered, yet her body still adorned with elaborate jewellery, Cleopatra’s majesty is here done full justice.