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Silks and Skins

Animal Fashions in Nina Wetzel’s Designs for Thomas Ostermeier’s Nuit des rois
Anne-Valérie Dulac

Résumés

Cet article est le produit d’un entretien avec Nina Wetzel au sujet de son travail de conception du décor et des costumes de la mise en scène de La Nuit des rois par Thomas Ostermeier à la Comédie Française. Il analyse la façon dont le redéploiement de la fourrure et des objets et matériaux d’origine animale par Wetzel constitue un geste ironique et réflexif par rapport à l’obsession de la pièce pour les étoffes et le vêtement. Après un court bilan critique consacré aux allusions au textile dans la comédie, l’article se penche sur les propriétés matérielles des tissus d’origine animale tels qu’ils apparaissent dans la pièce, ouvrant à une discussion des qualités et valeurs respectives des soieries et de la peausserie. L’opalescence réfléchissante des taffetas y est opposée à la profondeur haptique des fourrures, commémorant en ceci les inquiétudes sartoriales qui traversent la fin du règne d’Elisabeth Ie, que l’on voit s’exprimer dans les nombreuses lois somptuaires de la période. Le choix de Wetzel d’exhiber la dimension charnelle et animale des étoffes qu’elle travaille méticuleusement donne ainsi corps et substance aux métaphores textiles de la comédie et aux craintes sociales et politiques qui y sont associées. En faisant le choix de l’animal, Wetzel dévoile toute la porosité des limites de l’humain dans La Nuit des rois, offrant dans le même mouvement un puissant commentaire des formes de domination qui traversent la comédie.

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  • 1 I wish to express my most sincere thanks to Nina Wetzel for agreeing to our interview and for accep (...)
  • 2 La Nuit des rois ou tout ce que vous voulez, translated by Olivier Cadiot. Paris: P.O.L., 2018. Cad (...)

1This essay originates from a 2020 interview with Nina Wetzel about her work as costume and set designer for Thomas Ostermeier’s Nuit des rois.1 The play, which was based on a new translation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by Olivier Cadiot, opened in 2018 at the Comédie Française, and was performed again during the 2019 season, following its massive success.2 Most intriguing and memorable among Nina Wetzel’s designs was perhaps her use of animal costumes, prints and fabrics for this particular comedy which, as critics have often argued, may be deemed Shakespeare’s most “material work”:

  • 3 Twelfth Night, edited by Keir Elam, The Arden Shakespeare, London: Bloomsbury, 2008, p. 53. All sub (...)

Indeed, although it is traditionally seen as a romantic, even somewhat ethereal comedy, Twelfth Night is in many ways the most material of Shakespeare’s plays, uniquely concerned with cloth and clothing, dress and dressing, precious and common objects, architecture, furniture, receptacles, tools, and all the practical and physical aspects – or what Olivia calls ‘every particle and utensil’ (1.5.238) – of everyday life.3

  • 4 That same year she also worked on the costumes for Hedda Gabler (Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz). She (...)
  • 5 Pictures of her work on Macbeth can be seen on her official website at the following address: http: (...)
  • 6 Peter M. Boenisch, The Theatre of Ostermeier. Abindgon and New York: Routledge, 2016, p. 251.
  • 7 The term “animal-made objects” is borrowed from Erica Fudge’s discussion of animal matter: “[Anima (...)
  • 8 See for instance Ostermeier’s interview for theatre-contemporain.net: “Dans La Nuit des rois ou Tou (...)

2Nina Wetzel was born in 1969. She studied stage and costume design at the École Supérieure des Arts et Techniques in Paris. The first time she worked with Thomas Ostermeier was in 2005, when she designed the costumes for his production of Vor Sonnenaufgang (Before Sunrise) at the Kammerspiele Munich. This was only the opening chapter in an impressively long and still ongoing series of plays on which Ostermeier and Wetzel worked together.4 La Nuit des rois was not the first time Wetzel tackled Shakespeare either: in 2008, she designed the costumes for Ostermeier’s Hamlet (a coproduction with the Hellenic Festival Athens, then presented at the Festival d’Avignon before it premiered at Berlin’s Schaubühne). She was also the costume designer for his 2010 Othello (a coproduction with Hellenic Festival Epidaurus, which premiered at the Schaubühne). Even before she worked on these two Shakespeare productions with Ostermeier, Wetzel had created the costumes for Christina Paulhofer’s Macbeth at the Schaubühne in 2002.5 Paulhofer’s Macbeth strikingly opened with a scene featuring a real horse being walked around the stage, and included, among the costumes Wetzel designed, an elephant mask. Ten years later, in Ostermeier’s Ein Volksfeind (2012), for which she also designed the costumes, Thomas Bading (Morten Kiil) performed along with a real dog, German shepherd Xenia, who, in his own words, was a rather “difficult colleague”.6 Although no real animals were involved in La Nuit des rois, their presence is everywhere to be felt in Wetzel’s choices of costumes and props, ranging from the two actors fully dressed as apes and making repeated appearances throughout the play to the ubiquitous animal print in the costumes or other animal-made objects (fur trimmings and collars, a cow skin used as a throw, a hair-on hide armchair and cowrie shells ornaments).7 I will argue that animal-made costumes and props actively fashion Wetzel’s interpretation of the play by ironically repurposing most textile allusions in Shakespeare’s text. She thereby exposes the fleshly and sensual undertones in the play, which Ostermeier reads as an upsetting comedy about desire delayed and the consequences thereof.8 I will accordingly be contrasting Wetzel’s use of animal-made fabrics and fashions with the play’s original references to the same, thereby bringing to light the bestial undercurrent running underneath the comedy’s “courteous office[s” (3.4.248).

1. Setting

3Once opened, the painted front curtain of the Richelieu hall at the Comédie Française revealed a near-empty stage covered in sand, bathed in the glaring light of a star-shaped neon chandelier.9 The design was intentionally minimal: the island-like setting only featured half a dozen plastic rocks scattered on either side of the stage, complete with dark-green cardboard palm-trees and two sound-enhancing devices ostensibly on show.

Fig. 1: An overall view of the stage and part of the catwalk

Fig. 1: An overall view of the stage and part of the catwalk

© Nina Wetzel

4The setting could not fail to point to its blatantly and deliberately anti-illusionistic conception. At no point were the audience supposed to imagine themselves stranded anywhere else than in a makeshift, theatrical moment in time. Besides these non-naturalistic elements, a large, throne-like armchair had been placed on the centre line, directly opposite a catwalk that fully occupied the main aisle of the house, going all the way through the audience to the back rows of the theatre. A faux leopard skin had been thrown on top of the chair, itself upholstered in a blond unidentified hair-hide, with its top rail adorned with cowrie shells.

Fig. 2: The armchair and rug designed by Nina Wetzel, a close up

Fig. 2: The armchair and rug designed by Nina Wetzel, a close up

© Nina Wetzel

5Two actors, fully dressed in ape suits, knuckle-walked and sat among these elements, grunting and squeaking as they did, sometimes coming to a halt and crouching to rummage for food in the sand.

Fig.3: An actor wearing one of the ape suits during rehearsals

Fig.3: An actor wearing one of the ape suits during rehearsals

© Nina Wetzel

6While the long catwalk offered a glimpse of the centrality of clothing and fashion in the play, nothing in the scenography could be used as a clue to locate Illyria, where the comedy is set, in any precise way. Location uncertainty is in fact rather typical of Ostermeier’s settings:

  • 10 P. M. Boenisch, The Theatre of Thomas Ostermeier, p. 107.

For him, echoing Meyerhold, nothing should be on stage unless it directly contributes to the performance, and in particular supports the actors’ play. There may well be rather conventional, naturalistic objects and props like furniture, doors, and a wall in our sets – but none of these will be there just to define the locality, or to create an atmosphere.10

7The director’s wish to blur all references to a specific island or region of the world in La Nuit des rois was confirmed by Nina Wetzel who explained to me that they had wanted to create a purposefully artificial and unplaceable locus. All animal-inspired objects and costumes mentioned above had thus been conceived of as “supports [for] the actor’s play” only. They were self-referential performance materials rather than metaphorical or symbolic.

8Wetzel’s sketch for the opening scenography reveals some of the decisions that were made before the rehearsing process.

Fig. 4: Nina Wetzel’s preliminary sketch for the set

Fig. 4: Nina Wetzel’s preliminary sketch for the set

© Nina Wetzel

9The most obvious difference between the original sketch and the final set lies in the very throne occupying centre stage. The chair was initially intended as a regiestuhl (a director’s chair), covered with faux zebra fur. Similarly, the presence of the apes was only hypothetical at this early point in the design, as illustrated by the question left suspended in the top right corner of the sketch: “affen?” (“apes?”).

  • 11 Twelfth Night, p. 57.

10Considering the play’s “intense preoccupation with cloth and clothes” as well as with the “textile, weave and colour of fabric”, the later inclusion of the grandiose armchair and rug along with the ape suits seemed to reverberate more closely some of the text’s fabric-related concerns which I will now turn to before going back to Wetzel’s rather surprising — if incredibly effective — choice of fur and pelts as dominant materials on stage11.

2. Silks

  • 12 Lyly’s Euphues, Fo24 ro, quoted in K. Elam, Twelfth Night, p. 231.

11One of the play’s most often quoted allusions to animal-made fabrics and their characteristics is jester Feste’s satirical remark to Duke Orsino, the governor of Illyria: “Now the melancholy god protect thee, and the tailor make thy doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is a very opal” (2.4.73-75), which Cadiot translates as “Alors, que le dieu de la mélancolie vous protège… et que le tailleur vous coupe un taffetas à la couleur changeante — puisque votre esprit est en pierre de lune” (p. 85). Cadiot’s “pierre de lune” (moonstone), a departure from the alternative “opale” which more transparently corresponds to the English word, strengthens the association of changeable taffeta (shot silk, in this instance) with melancholy and its well-known association with the inconstant satellite. Underneath the parallel drawn between Orsino and a piece of valuable cloth or a precious gem, Feste is mocking the Duke’s unpredictable mood. The association of taffeta and inconstancy was nothing original or new and was already found in John Lyly’s Euphues: “you haue giuen vnto me a true loues knotte wrought of chaungeable silke”.12 As for the opalescent glitter of the gem, it derived from Pliny:

  • 13 This passage translates the following Latin original: “(India sola et horum mater est, atque,) ut p (...)

Lapidaries, therefore, and those who have written books of precious stones, have given unto [opals] the name and glorie of the greatest price, but especially for the difficultie in finding them out and chusing of them, which is inenarrable; for in the Opall, you shall see the burning fire of the Carbuncle or Rubie, the glorious purple of the Amethyst, the greene sea of the Emeraud, and all glittering together mixed after an incredible maner.13

  • 14 “Taffeta, n. and adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2020 [last accessed on 10/10/ (...)
  • 15 See Lien Bich Luu, Immigrants and the Industries of London, 1500-1700. Oxon and New York: Routledge (...)
  • 16 About the first performance of the play see K. Elam’s introduction to Twelfth Night: “there are, in (...)
  • 17 “Silk is an umbrella term for many different kinds of textile, some of which are still familiar, so (...)

12I want to inquire further into this reference not so much to delve into the metaphorical texture of the passage but rather to probe into its material implications. The word “taffeta” then referred to any fine, crisp and lustrous fabric “of a plain weave in which the weft threads are thicker than those of the warp”.14 We know from legal documents that in 1593, besides its 120 silk-weavers, the City of London was home to 22 taffeta-weavers and 4 tufted taffeta-weavers.15 Tufted taffeta-weavers, along with velvet-weavers (of which 7 were recorded) were the most qualified of all. The manufacture of all-silk tufted taffeta was still only recent, as it had started around the 1590s (tufted taffeta was previously usually half-linen). By the time the play was written, the number of imported yards of taffeta had gone up from around 110,000 in 1592-1593 to approximately 210,000 in 1600-1601 — a 100,000 increase in under ten years.16 Feste’s choice of fabric thus bears witness to this expanding trend. Yet taffeta was only one among the great many silk-based textiles so keenly sought after by the fashionable elite.17

  • 18 See footnote 13.

13The reflective properties of these fabrics seem to have provided one of the most distinctive features behind the variety of textiles subsumed under the umbrella term “silk”. This would also account for the taffeta/opal parallel drawn by Feste, as the precious stone was noted specifically for its propensity to glitter like ruby, amethyst and emerald “together mixed after an incredible manner”.18 Yet it seems that critics have up to now mostly focussed on a rather more metaphorical approach of these textile references. Although the social, political and metatheatrical dimensions of all examples above are indeed central, I would here like to suggest that the materiality of these animal-made fabrics adds a further lining to the comedy’s materials.

14As has often been noted, Viola-as-Cesario’s metaphor (her “damask cheek”) as well as Feste’s imaginary taffeta doublet for Orsino point to the shared nobility of both characters. Indeed, Elizabethan sumptuary laws limited the wearing of silk to those above the rank of knight, in a bid to regulate dress codes according to social extraction. The 1574 Statutes of Apparel made it clear, for instance, that none shall wear in their apparel:

Satin, damask, silk, camlet, or taffeta in gown, coat, hose, or uppermost garments; fur whereof the kind groweth not in the Queen's dominions, except foins [marten fur], grey genets, and budge [imported sheared lambskin]: except the degrees and persons above mentioned [i.e. knights and above], and men that may dispend £100 by the year, and so valued in the subsidy book.19

15Following such rules, Duke Orsino would thus be entitled to wear a doublet in “changeable taffeta” or Viola “damask”, but not the actors playing their parts. This idea of transgression was central to the criticism levelled at drama which made it possible for players to dress in fabrics supposedly reserved to social classes above their own. This anxiety was amplified further by the then non-existent distinction between disguise and costume:

  • 20 Stephen Orgel, « Seeing Through Costume », Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare [O (...)

[A] theatre company had its largest investment, its major property, in its costumes; and the costumes were for the most part the real cast-off clothes of real aristocrats. As the legitimating emblems of authority, these garments possessed a kind of social reality within the culture that the actors, and indeed much of their audience, could never hope to have. The actors and characters were fictions, but the costumes were the real thing.20

  • 21 The Diary of Philip Henslowe from 1591 to 1609, printed from the original manuscript preserved at D (...)
  • 22 K. Elam, Tweltfh Night, p. 45.

16Taffeta’s “changeable” appearance seems to have become near proverbial at the time. The phrase changeable taffeta is for instance used twice by theatre impresario Philip Henslowe in his diary, one of the most important manuscript sources for English early modern theatrical history: “sowld unto the companye, the 9 of desembr 1602, ij peces of cangable taffetie, to macke a womones gowne and a robe, for the playe of crysmas”.21 Although the diary does not refer to Twelfth Night specifically, Elam notes that such echo shows that “Orsino is just a dressed-up player like the rest” and the reference to the instability of taffeta thus takes on “theatrical implications”.22 As a result, the implicitly metatheatrical joke points to such stuff as stagecraft is made on: Illyria becomes a stage peopled by actors discussing their parts and disguises. This seemed to reverberate upon Wetzel’s choice of recycling and refashioning of some costumes she found in the Comédie Française’s wardrobe (including Andrew Gueule de Fièvre’s undergarment turned costume). In her own words, these previously used pieces pointed to the Paris playhouse’s very memory and again stressed the island’s theatricality.

Fig. 5: Christophe Montenez, (Andrew Gueule de Fièvre)

Fig. 5: Christophe Montenez, (Andrew Gueule de Fièvre)

© Jean-Louis Fernandez

  • 23 H. Lees-Jeffries, ‘Going in Silks’ (2019). Interestingly enough, the play also reverberates the the (...)

17Taffeta and damask, as suggested by their very names (taffeta being of Persian origin and damask referring to the city of Damascus), also stirred rather intense proto-nationalist feelings among moralists and pamphleteers. Silk was at the time mostly imported “from Piedmont, China, Turkey and, by the early seventeenth-century, from Iran, directly or via France and Italy”.23 This was the reason why the developing fashion for silk products was perceived by some as an unwelcome loss of Englishness and authenticity. Philip Stubbes, in his Anatomy of Abuses, notes for instance that the consumption of “silkes, veluets, satens, damasks, grograins, taffeties, and such like” impoverishes the English to the benefice of other nations:

  • 24 Philip Stubbes, The anatomie of abuses contayning a discouerie, or briefe summarie of such notable (...)

Moreouer those [foreign] Cuntreyes are rich and weal­thie of them selues, abounding with all kinde of preciouse ornaments, and riche attyre, as silks, veluets, Satens, damasks, sarcenet, taffetie, chamlet, and such like (for al these are made in those foraine cuntreyes) and therfore if they weare them, they are not muche to bee blamed, as not hauing anie other kind of cloathing to couer themselues withall. So if wee would contente our selues with such kinde of attire, as our owne Countrey doeth minister vnto vs, it were much tollerable.24

  • 25 Quoted by L. Bich Luu Immigrants and the Industries of London, 1500-1700, p. 184.

18The growth of silk manufacture in London was also very much stimulated by immigration from the Continent. Books of fines or other records of the 1590s and 1600s testify to the prominence of foreigners and refugees among silk manufacturers in London, as in this 1600 document reporting that “the strangers make tuff taffetas, wrought velvets, figured satins and other sorts of silk mingled with thread and wool […] in abundance”.25 Most of these foreign silk workers came from the Southern Netherlands while others, although less numerous, came from France. Nearly all of them had fled their native country for fear of religious persecution, and resided in the London wards of Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, and Southwark. “Silk” could thus also be used in the playhouse as a shorthand for affectation and alienation, as in Berowne’s famous renunciation of “Taffeta phrases, silken terms precise, / Three-piled hyperboles, sprice affectation” (Love’s Labour’s Lost, 5.2.406) in favour of “russet yeas and honest kersey noes” (5.2.413). His abandoning silken rhetoric, following a pledge to never wear “Russian habit” again (5.2.400) leaves Rosaline and the audience expecting him to behave in all native English authenticity, conveyed in its overwhelmingly woollen heritage.

  • 26 “mon habit de velours à passementeries” in Cadiot’s translation, La Nuit des rois, p. 93.

19Yet my contention is that if we turn to Twelfth Night’s third explicit reference to silk, it thus becomes possible to make additional material sense of animal-made textiles in the production, an occasion which Wetzel seized upon. I will thus now turn to Malvolio’s imaginary “branched velvet gown” (2.4.44-45).26 Indulging in a moment of socially transgressive reverie, Malvolio pictures himself marrying Olivia, hence above his own station, and thereby acquiring the title needed to wear the sumptuous fabric. At that precise moment in Ostermeier’s production, Sébastien Pouderoux (Malvolio) draped himself in the faux leopard / real cow skin covering the armchair.

Fig. 6: Sébastien Pouderoux (Malvolio), donning the leopard skin

Fig. 6: Sébastien Pouderoux (Malvolio), donning the leopard skin

© Jean-Louis Fernandez

  • 27 As an illustration of the kind of images that had inspired her, Wetzel sent me this picture http:// (...)

20Malvolio’s makeshift skin gown first signals a form of usurpation. The armchair had up to then only served as a prop in scenes representing Duke Orsino and Countess Olivia’s households, so that it bespoke power and rank. By making the skin his, Malvolio is therefore shown borrowing a distinctive sign of authority. This was confirmed by Nina Wetzel’s inspiration for the armchair/throne, which had stemmed in no small part from her browsing through Daniel Lainé’s photographs of African kings and leaders.27 The African inspiration behind this massive prop contributed to further blurring the location of Illyria, as it clashed quite evidently with the otherwise European-inspired costumes. As a prop supporting the actors’ play, endowed with specific material qualities, what was the audience supposed to make of such material choice?

21The animal skin for the director’s chair turned throne-like seat was ordered rather late during the rehearsal process: after a first failed attempt at working with latex, which she thought lacked form, Wetzel decided to order a cow skin which was then painted to make it resemble a leopard skin. The use of real skin, she said, was also far more sensual and thus tied in more evidently with her overall choice of emphasizing the latent eroticism suffusing the comedy.

22Borrowing as he did the skin from the throne to fashion a costume for himself, Malvolio thus sartorially enacted his social-cum-sensual fantasy. Yet the effect of Malvolio seizing a mat animal pelt rather than an actual piece of shiny “branched velvet” added a new layer (both material and metaphorical) to the text performed.

Fig .7: The painted leopard skin

Fig .7: The painted leopard skin

© Nina Wetzel

  • 28 Dans la traduction de Cadiot : “Ton destin t’ouvre les bras, embrasse-le de tout ton corps et de to (...)
  • 29 Twelfth Night, p. 418.
  • 30 For a copy of the portrait see Yani Fong, “Unknown British Painter, Portrait of a Woman” (2018), ht (...)

23It first created a telling visual echo of an animal-based metaphor used earlier in the play. Maria’s letter, which Malvolio wrongly assumes is Olivia’s, advises him to shed his lowly status and embrace higher expectations in the following terms: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. Thy fates open their hands: let thy blood and spirit embrace them, and, to inure thyself to what thou art like to be, cast thy humble slough and appear fresh.” (2.5.141-145).28 Keir Elam, in the Arden edition of the play, notes that in Gielgud’s 1955 production “Laurence Olivier [playing Malvolio] hesitated over the pronunciation of the word [slough], suggesting Malvolio’s social insecurity”.29 As in previous references to taffeta and damask, Malvolio’s new “velvet” skin thus acquired primarily social import. By using animal skin and print rather than velvet, Wetzel’s design brought the animal origin of the materials used to the fore, making them more visible. Silk, and all associated products in early modern England (including velvet), did not conjure up the memory of the animal behind it. To the best of my knowledge, there is only one rather extraordinary European example of silkworms made apparent in silk products around the time Shakespeare wrote his fabric-obsessed comedy: I am here referring to a portrait of A Lady of Rank at Parham House, dated c. 1609-1610 and attributed to Robert Peake the Elder.30 The unidentified sitter in the portrait is shown wearing an elaborate dress of late-Elizabethan style, consisting of a grey silk bodice and leg-of-mutton sleeves adorned with a striking pattern of mulberry leaves and silkworms woven in silver and gold thread. The surprising design for the dress must have been a commemoration of James I’s (failed) attempt at Englishing sericulture by importing both mulberry trees and silkworms:

  • 31 Ben Marsh, Unravelled Dreams: Silk and the Atlantic World, 1500-1840. Cambridge: Cambridge Universi (...)

Significant efforts were made to secure replenishable stocks of silkworm eggs and to add mulberries to English estates, but production was jeopardized by the absence of sufficient expertise and by recurring environmental problems that undermined uptake. […] It was not a coincidence that the first widespread interest in silkworms in England followed a pronounced rise in the domestic consumption of silk goods. […]31

24Prior to James’s first breeding experience at Charlton House in 1606, silkworms remained virtually unknown in England, except for one earlier occasion upon which “a visiting Italian merchant had shown some silkworms to Queen Elizabeth in 1581”.32 Deprived of any obvious symbolic meaning, the silkworms on the Parham portrait are usually considered as a topical tribute to the king’s endeavour to import sericulture into England. The portrait thus offers a rather tantalising material mise en abyme, the silkworms being woven into the very silk they helped producing. The worms hence become both apparent and reified as ornament in the portrait, their agency both celebrated and domesticated. The Englishing of sericulture, aimed at competing with rival nations (mostly France and Italy), was also conceived of as a way of changing the perception of silks, which the Elizabethan sumptuary laws had defined as “superfluities” bringing into the realm “unnecessary foreign wares” likely to bring about the “manifest decay of the whole realm”.33 Yet with the notable exception of Queen Anne’s taffeta dress made of English silk, which she wore on her husband’s birthday in 1611, silk production remained anecdotal and local ventures failed to develop into a flourishing industry. A decade earlier, when Twelfth Night was first performed, silk-based fabrics were thus still very much the rich and opalescent material imported by the fashionable elite, whose animal origin and conditions of production prior to their manufacturing remained largely unnoticed, the silkworms themselves only a distant species.

25In other words, besides the social and/or metatheatrical readings of textile and animal skin in the play, there is also quite clearly a nexus of allusions to the reflective, lustrous properties of high-sheen materials. Much like the taffeta doublet and damask cheek, Malvolio’s dream of branched velvet, his new “slough”, is resplendent with lustre and sheen and oblivious to its animality.

  • 34 H. Lees-Jeffries, ‘Going in silks’. Among all four hypotheses regarding the date of the first perfo (...)

26In 1602, the dazzling effect of such materials would also have conjured up rather vivid images of how they reacted to candlelight. In a discussion of silk in early modern Europe, Hester Lees-Jeffries notes that “it is always worth thinking about what an early modern garment would look like by candlelight, which is warm and, potentially, dim, and flickers too”.34 As a result, the rich clothing that must have been worn by the actor playing Orsino’s part, and which may have included those fabrics reserved by law for the aristocracy (including velvets, silks or brocade) would have offered material evidence of the fabrics’ reflective potential suggested by all the above metaphors.

27In what reads as an internal stage direction of sorts, Olivia also suggests she is wearing silk: “To one of your receiving / Enough is shown: a cypress, not a bosom, / Hides my heart” (3.1.118-120). “Cypress” (imported from or through Cyprus), was a light transparent material, almost gauze-like, resembling cobweb lawn or crape, which was commonly used for mourning. Cadiot’s version translates “cypress” as “dentelle”, the better to underline the transparency of Olivia’s feelings and Viola’s ability to perceive them through the flimsy fabric. Both Olivia and Maria in Ostermeier’s production had pieces of see-through veils added to lingerie-like ensembles which played up to the overall seductive and erotic undertones of this adaptation.

Fig. 8: Nina Wetzel’s costume design for Maria

Fig. 8: Nina Wetzel’s costume design for Maria

© Nina Wetzel

28More significantly for the purpose of the present discussion, Wetzel’s costumes for the male characters (including Cesario) all strikingly featured skin and/or fur (if only momentarily for some, as in Malvolio’s brief donning of the cow skin), shown in the bright phosphorescent light of the star-shaped chandelier presiding over this garish twelfth night. What could this obvious material shift signal?

3. Skins and Furs

29Fur, rather than silk or velvet, was used by Nina Wetzel as a social marker for her costume designs. Among the images and visual sources she gathered prior to designing the costumes, one particular portrait stood out, that of Prince Don Carlos (c. 1555-1559) by Alonso Sánchez Coell. This was a portrait which Nina Wetzel mentioned as a visual illustration of what her own use of fur aimed at recreating and as an inspiration for the codpiece in Malvolio’s disguise.

Fig. 9:  Alonso Sánchez Coello, El Príncipe don Carlos (1555-1559). Oil on canvas, 109 x 95 cm

Fig. 9:  Alonso Sánchez Coello, El Príncipe don Carlos (1555-1559). Oil on canvas, 109 x 95 cm

Museo del Prado, inv. P00136

© Museo del Prado

  • 35 Lynx fur linings were most fashionable at the time and appear in many portraits of noble men and wo (...)

30The lynx fur lining of the Prince’s cloak had preceded and inspired the fox fur collar added to Denis Podalydès (Orsino)’s costume and other fur trimmings (including those for the twins).35

Fig. 10: Denis Podalydès (Orsino) et Adeline d’Hermy (Olivia)

Fig. 10: Denis Podalydès (Orsino) et Adeline d’Hermy (Olivia)

© Jean-Louis Fernandez

31This typically Spanish cape looks very similar to that worn by Prince Hercule-François, Duc d’Alençon in a 1572 portrait.

Fig. 11: Unknown artist, Prince Hercule-François, Duc d'Alençon, 1572. Oil on canvas, 188.6 x 102.2 cm

Fig. 11: Unknown artist, Prince Hercule-François, Duc d'Alençon, 1572. Oil on canvas, 188.6 x 102.2 cm

Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, inv. 1961.9.55

32Interestingly enough, both portraits have been re-enacted by craftsman and performer Fabio Lo Piparo, who specializes in historical costumes and props. His stunning re-enactment of Alençon’s portrait, which was commissioned by a French re-enactor, features a wool gabardine lined with lynx fur which Lo Piparo cut and assembled from a cape he had previously purchased.36

Fig. 12: Fabio Lo Piparo, Alençon Project, A re-enactment of the Alençon portrait, 2019

Fig. 12: Fabio Lo Piparo, Alençon Project, A re-enactment of the Alençon portrait, 2019

© Fabio Lo Piparo

33Comparing Fabio Lo Piparo’s striking reconstitution of the fur-lined cloak to Nina Wetzel’s re-interpretation of the same piece of clothing, one cannot but notice the latter’s evocative departure from the original picture. Wetzel chose to complete Denis Podalydès’s satin-lined nightgown-like coat with a detachable real fox fur stole finished with the animal’s paws, which the actor alternately wore or discarded depending on the moment. Wetzel’s choice resulted in making the animal origin of the piece unmistakable, the dangling legs of the fox a powerful reminder of the dead beast. Contrary to the invisibility of the worm in silk products, fur’s animal origin is far more difficult to suppress. It seemed that Wetzel was rather trying hard to remind the audience of animal presence, thereby offering an animal and fleshly approach of love and relationships in the comedy. This also showed in the easily identifiable leopard pattern for the armchair’s painted skin (which Malvolio donned instead of a velvet gown) or again in the leopard print underclothing worn by Cesario.

Fig. 13: Nina Wetzel’s costume design for Viola-as-Cesario

Fig. 13: Nina Wetzel’s costume design for Viola-as-Cesario

© Nina Wetzel

34Nina Wetzel wanted the fox and leopard to meet, as it were, in a bid to prevent the audience from thinking themselves anywhere specific, yet I believe that these additions and adaptions, along with the actors in ape costumes, also added to the overwhelming sense of animal presence in the production.

35Under Elizabeth’s and James’s reigns, fur was strictly regulated by sumptuary laws according to the kind of animal from which it was derived:

  • 37 See Kathleen Walker Meikle’s section on fur in the Renaissance Skin project’s page on consuming ski (...)

[Sables were limited to the royalty, dukes, marquises, and earls, black genets and lynx fur were restricted to dukes, marquises, earls and their children, viscounts, barons, Knights of the Garter, and members of the Privy Council. Finally, leopard skin was similarly restrained to these men, along with the sons of barons, knights, gentlemen attending her majesty, and ambassadors.37

  • 38 Christopher Breward discusses the many complex connotations behind both the sumptuary proclamations (...)

36Although the very list of animals whose fur decked the lucky few’s wardrobes is indication enough of their foreign origins, “polemical writers or moralists rarely attacked them as harmful to domestic economy—in fact, furs were viewed as natural materials and as a distinctly English fashion.”38 This is the reason why furs seem to have played a relatively minor role in discussions and indictments of excess and superfluity despite its strict regulation by sumptuary legislation. Yet for all its perceived Englishness, the nobility’s fur consumption started dwindling by the middle of the sixteenth century. As has been compellingly argued by Elizabeth McFadden, the decline in fur consumption among the Elizabethan elite was the result of the Queen’s own sartorial and pictorial self-fashioning:

  • 39 E. McFadden, Fur Dress, p. 54.

Records from Elizabeth I’s Wardrobe Accounts from 1571 reveal that the Queen […] requested her tailor to remove the [ermine] fur lining [from her Parliamentary Robe] and replace it with white taffeta, a lighter weight silk. Elizabeth thought that fur garments too uncomfortable and burdensome. She was also keenly aware of what materials would better suit the sartorial configuration of her body. The switching out of the queen’s ermine lining, a material long associated with English sovereignty, with silks is reflective of how lighter, more comfortable, and hygienic materials would gradually come to completely replace fur dress in fashion.39

  • 40 Cadiot translates this as “espèce de petit animal hypocrite ! Qu’est-ce que tu vas devenir quand te (...)
  • 41 Twelfth Night, p. 504.
  • 42 Elam even interprets Feste’s remark about Orsino’s double of “changeable taffeta” as a hint at effe (...)

37The anecdote and interpretation given by McFadden reveal that there are at least three reasons why Elizabeth herself favoured silks over furs. First, the heaviness and thickness of the fur, a much bulkier material than silk, conveyed a supposedly manlier vision of authority, resting upon virility and strength, which both the volume and hairiness of fur tended to connote. Significantly enough, Twelfth Night seems to echo such associations as Orsino, thinking Cesario has betrayed him, addresses him as follows: “O thou dissembling cub! What wilt thou be / When time hath sowed a grizzle on thy case?” (5.1.160-161).40 “Case” here refers to animal hide, especially fox-skin, which Eilam glosses as alluding to either Cesario’s lack of beard, or, ironically so and without Orsino realising, to Viola’s real gender, through a pun on female pudenda.41 That hair should be immediately related to animality and/or sexuality in a comedy where all noble characters, including men, opt for silky fabrics rather than for hairy, fur- or skin-based materials, further complicates the many gender-related transgressions implied by crossdressing in the play.42

  • 43 E. McFadden, Fur Dress, p. 73.

38The second reason is related to that of hygiene: “[b]y the seventeenth century, furs were seen to negatively affect personal hygiene and health. This is a startling contrast to furs’ importance in conveying the appearance of the robust, virile elite male body during Henry VIII’s reign”.43 Satins’ tight weave and all silken products meant they came to be seen as protecting the body far more firmly than the porous furs, which not only retained debris and organic material but also shed hair. This accounted for the rather tedious cleaning process of furs: for instance, we know it took Elizabeth’s skinner and five other men four full days in the winter of 1598 to air and beat the Queen’s furs, which were otherwise kept in airtight bags (some of them of velvet and taffeta, for sables) with sweet powder, a powerful repellent against moths and fleas. In other words, fur was very much perceived as a living, organic material, open to infestations and outer influences. Fur thus suggested physicality and animality contrary to high-sheen silks, closer as they were then perceived to gems, opals and reflective surfaces.

39This now leads me to the third and final reason for Elizabeth’s and Elizabethan England’s increasing preference for silks, which so strikingly resonates through Twelfth Night while sharply contrasting with Wetzel’s thought-provoking designs: fur’s evocation of touch and sensuality. This may have been the reason why although Elizabeth did own quite a large number of furs, she was reluctant to be portrayed in fur. The Queen kept a close watch over all representations of her royal figure and she made a point of carefully designing her own visual propaganda:

  • 44 E. McFadden, Fur Dress, p. 53.

To underline her sexual self-containment, the Virgin Queen relied upon a pictorial program that schematized her body and its sartorial elements into a legible code of monarchic power that could be optically engaged with but not touched. Fur evoked physical touch because its texture activated sensorial memory and invited comparisons between smooth, skin-like surfaces and furry ones.44

  • 45 As such, the hand/glove connection and the tactile dimension of fur, its sensuousness, are reminisc (...)

40The haptic property of fur, its ostensible evocation of animal life and bestiality also potentially connoted eroticism and female sexuality (as in the pun on “case” mentioned above) rather than the authoritative virility of male leadership. Could this be the reason why the most explicit reference to animal skin and fur in Twelfth Night materialises as a glove? We owe the metaphor to Feste yet again, the play’s most textile-savvy character: “A sentence is but a cheverel glove to a good wit: how quickly the wrong side may be turned outward” (3.1.11-13). Contrary to Orsino’s mood of “changeable taffeta”, the slipperiness of language is in no way related to any chromatic value or reflective property (both of them visual effects) of leather but rather to the pliancy, flexibility and stretchiness of kid-skin. The cheverel whose hide is used, its presence still felt and heard in the very name of the material, confers upon the glove its living, mutable quality. In turn, the reversibility of the animal glove contaminates and fashions the wearer/speaker.45 The cheverel glove and the taffeta doublet therefore offer two materially incompatible conceptions of variability, one beastly, living and hairy and the other dazzling, gem-like.

41Olivia, like Orsino, seems to abide by Elizabeth’s reliance upon the latter reflective, opalescent pictorial agenda. The Queen’s preference for silks and their optical properties is perhaps nowhere as obvious as in the many gem-like portrait miniatures she sat for.

Fig. 14: Nicholas Hilliard, Elizabeth I, c. 1595-1600. Watercolour on vellum, 6.5 x 5.3 cm

Fig. 14: Nicholas Hilliard, Elizabeth I, c. 1595-1600. Watercolour on vellum, 6.5 x 5.3 cm

Victoria & Albert Museum, inv. 622-1882

© The Victoria and Albert Museum

42Significantly enough, Nicholas Hilliard’s Arte of Limning abounds in both textile metaphors and references to gems and stone. Most telling of all for the present discussion is his comparison of the vellum used as support for portrait miniatures to a piece of satin:

  • 46 Nicholas Hilliard, The Arte of Limning edited by R. K. R. Thornton, and T. G. S. Cain, Manchester: (...)

[K]nowe that Parchment is the only good and best thinge to limme one, but it must be virgine Parchment, such a neuer bore haire, but younge things found in the dames bellye. / some calle it Vellym, some Abertiue deriued frome the word Abhortiue, for vntimely birthe, It must be most finly drest, as smothe as any sattine, and pasted with starch well strained one pastbourd well burnished, that it maye be pure without speckes or Staynes, very smoothe and white.46

  • 47 N. Hilliard, The Arte of Limning, p. 53.

43In his description of the “only good” support for limning, Nicholas Hilliard therefore makes it clear that any visible memory of the stillborn calf, whose hairless skin was processed to create a pictorial surface, fully disappears through the meticulous dressing of the material. Only thus can the skin acquire the smoothness and purity of satin, its tight surface immune to animal presence. Hilliard’s obsession with cleanliness and purity extended to the limner’s very outfit, which he advised his readers should be made of “silk, such as sheddeth least dust or hairs”.47 The jewel-like quality of the precious little portraits, enclosed in often richly decorated lockets, thus tied in most gloriously with Elizabeth’s visual programme. Again, this does not fail to be reverberated in the play as the only likeness circulating among characters is Olivia’s miniature portrait: “Here, wear this jewel for me: ’tis my picture” (3.4.203). The picture/jewel equivalence explicitly posited by the countess offers yet another illustration of how much the self-fashioning materials used or mentioned in the play are rooted in late Elizabethan trends.

4. Conclusion

44In choosing to design costumes and a setting both heavily relying upon animal prints and fashions, Nina Wetzel recovered a strong sense of animal matter that she playfully superimposed to the text’s opalescent surfaces, playing against the characters’ textile aspirations. Ostermeier’s production thus became an ode to sensuality and the haptic: the revealing outfits of the actors, leaving little to the imagination, combined with the heavy, showy materiality of fur and skin under the neon lights, worked as a powerful reminder and developer (as in photography) of the archaic phases in animal-fashion-making.

45Initially, Wetzel had thought of using body painting instead of costumes, again emphasising her haptic and tactile approach of the play. Soon realising the quick changes in costumes and parts made it impossible to contemplate painting the actors’ bodies in time for each new entrance, she thus settled for the see-through, slashed and revealing outfits that made the production so visually striking.

46The only fully-covering costumes she designed were thus those used for the apes, which she added to the play altogether. Wetzel spent a very long while working on the costumes (her first designs date back to December 2017). For the ape suits proper, following weeks of research into apes, she finally opted for a combination a visual elements characteristic of two distinct species: the bonobo and the chimpanzee.

Fig. 15: Preliminary research for the ape suits and masks

Fig. 15: Preliminary research for the ape suits and masks

© Nina Wetzel

47The actors wearing the suits first rehearsed their parts in catsuits, to which were later added padded buttock pieces. The fur of the final suits was chosen among a large selection of faux fur samples, which Wetzel tested for pliancy and flexibility. The meticulously detailed masks, the padded bodysuits and the sand on which they had to knuckle-walk contributed to making the actors’ movements look incredibly similar to those of real apes. Over the course of our interview, Wetzel thus described the impressive amount of work and preparation that went into the scenes featuring the apes, most notably the opening sequence. In this non-verbal introductory scene, only the two apes walked the stage, looking for food, animal noises (birds, insects) playing in the background. At one point, one of them climbed onto the armchair, clapping and yelling before going back down and starting to nibble from leftovers found in the sand again. The silent tableau was then briefly interrupted by a theatre technician who came to clean the set, picking up what looked like bones and bits of animal carcasses and taking them away before the music ensemble and Orsino made their entrance. The apes stayed for the following scene, interacting with the Duke, as well as with other characters in later scenes, offering a furry, silent if running commentary on the comedy. Staring at the other actors as they did, mimicking their gestures and attitudes in their own beastly fashion and offering a living echo of the many animal-made-fabrics on stage, they undermined the romantic and courtly offices of the comedy by drawing the spectator’s attention to the unnameable yet palpable desire flowing between all characters: “desire finds singular paths to fulfilment, undetermined by norms, which each character comes to realise, as well as the audience.”48

48As intriguing as the final version of the added opening scene may have seemed at first sight, Wetzel’s designs for both the set and the ape suits worked as a powerful and mesmerising entrance into the play’s discussion of animal fashions and instincts. The furry, hungry presence of the apes, so reminiscent of the men and women they were soon joined by, were incredible reminders of Shakespeare’s comedy’s cheverel plasticity, the opalescent ambitions of its characters often only partially hiding their true, at times bestial desires and their moving density.

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Notes

1 I wish to express my most sincere thanks to Nina Wetzel for agreeing to our interview and for accepting to proofread the final version of this essay. I also want to thank the reviewers for their thorough and insightful reviews.

2 La Nuit des rois ou tout ce que vous voulez, translated by Olivier Cadiot. Paris: P.O.L., 2018. Cadiot’s translation, was specifically commissioned by Thomas Ostermeier for the play. This was not the first time Cadiot worked with Ostermeier as he had previously translated and adapted Les Revenants (Ghosts) in 2013 for the director’s production at the Théâtre Vidy (Lausanne, Switzerland). In 2016, Cadiot also translated La Mouette (The Seagull), for Ostermeier’s production at the Odéon Théâtre de l’Europe (Paris, France). All subsequent references to the French translation are to this edition. For a full synopsis of the play, see the Royal Shakespeare Company website https://www.rsc.org.uk/twelfth-night/the-plot [last accessed on 30/03/2021]. For more contextual material around the play and its setting, see David Carnegie and Mark Houlahan’s introduction to their edition of the play for The Internet Shakespeare Editions, https://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Texts/TN.html [last accessed on 30/03/2021].

3 Twelfth Night, edited by Keir Elam, The Arden Shakespeare, London: Bloomsbury, 2008, p. 53. All subsequent references to the play are to this edition.

4 That same year she also worked on the costumes for Hedda Gabler (Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz). She later worked as stage designer for Die Ehe der Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun), which opened in 2007 at the Kammerspiele Munich before transferring to Schaubühne in 2009 (she also took part in the later 2014 version of the play). In 2010 she designed the costumes for John Gabriel Borkmann (Schaubühne) and both the costumes and stage design for Susn (Kammerspiele Munich) as well as for Dämonen (Demons, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz). Two years later, she worked as costume designer for Ein Volksfeind (An Enemy of the People, a coproduction with Festival d’Avignon, which premiered at Schaubühne), and then again for Les Revenants (Ghosts) in 2013 at the Théâtre Vidy Lausanne, where Ostermeier started working on La Mouette (The Seagull) in 2016 (the play later opened at the Odéon Théâtre de l’Europe in Paris). Nina Wetzel also took part in this production, as costume designer. Interestingly enough the cast for La Mouette also featured Sébastien Pouderoux (Dorn), who played Malvolio and the priest in La Nuit des rois. More recently still, Wetzel designed costumes for Professor Bernhardi (2016, Schaubühne), and both costumes and set for Returning to Reims (jointly presented by the Schaubühne and the Manchester international festival in 2017), Abgrund / L’Abîme (Les Gémeaux, Sceaux, France, 2019), and Histoire de la violence (Théâtre de la Ville, 2019).

5 Pictures of her work on Macbeth can be seen on her official website at the following address: http://www.ninawetzel.net/ninawetzel.net/MAcbeth.html [last accessed on 27/09/2020].

6 Peter M. Boenisch, The Theatre of Ostermeier. Abindgon and New York: Routledge, 2016, p. 251.

7 The term “animal-made objects” is borrowed from Erica Fudge’s discussion of animal matter: “[Animal matter can have an active presence in so-called human culture too. And in response to this double meaning – the inseparability of animal and product, the potential agency of animal stuff - I propose a term that makes inseparable living animal and dead matter: ‘animal-made-object’. This term carries two simultaneous meanings: 1) the animal-made object - the object constructed from an animal; and 2) the animal made-object - the objectified animal. Using this term might, I hope, not only remind us of the concurrent status of animals as both agents and matter but also of the nature of the relationship we have with them”, Erica Fudge, “Renaissance Animal Things”, in Gorgeous Beasts: Animal Bodies in Historical Perspective, edited by Joan B. Landes, Paula Young Lee, and Paul Youngquist, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012, p. 42.

8 See for instance Ostermeier’s interview for theatre-contemporain.net: “Dans La Nuit des rois ou Tout ce que vous voulez, la réalisation du désir est sans cesse reportée, car son objet se soustrait, et cette errance met en cause les catégories de genres et les classes sociales sur lesquelles l’Illyrie – et notre monde – sont construits”, or again, in the same interview: “Plutôt que la mélancolie supposée « romantique », qui me semble réductrice par rapport aux profondeurs du sentiment humain qu’explore la pièce, ce qui m’intéresse dans La Nuit des rois ou Tout ce que vous voulez ce sont les envers plus sombres d’un désir inassouvi, réprimé ou détraqué”, https://www.theatre-contemporain.net/spectacles/La-Nuit-des-rois-23999/ensavoirplus/idcontent/88147 [last accessed on 30/03/2020].

9 A picture of the opening scene by Christophe Raynaud de Lage can be seen here: https://d3e1m60ptf1oym.cloudfront.net/cc34852f-5c23-47a8-a01b-1cdb74936013/180920_RdL_0003_xlarge.jpg [last accessed on 28/09/2020].

10 P. M. Boenisch, The Theatre of Thomas Ostermeier, p. 107.

11 Twelfth Night, p. 57.

12 Lyly’s Euphues, Fo24 ro, quoted in K. Elam, Twelfth Night, p. 231.

13 This passage translates the following Latin original: “(India sola et horum mater est, atque,) ut pretiosissimarum gloria compositi, gemmarum maxime inenarrabilem difficultatem adferunt. Est in his carbunculi tenuior ignis, est amethysti fulgens purpura, est smaragdi uirens mare, cuncta pariter incredibili mixtura lucentia”, quoted in Twelfth Night, p. 231.

14 “Taffeta, n. and adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2020 [last accessed on 10/10/2020].

15 See Lien Bich Luu, Immigrants and the Industries of London, 1500-1700. Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2005, p. 185-186.

16 About the first performance of the play see K. Elam’s introduction to Twelfth Night: “there are, in summary, four possible first nights for Twelfth Night: at Whitehall on 6 January 1601; at the Middle Temple on 2 February 1602; at the public theatre — the Globe — rather than a private venue, presumably some time in 1601; or on 6 January 1602 in some other private performance space, prior to its appearance at the Middle Temple, and then on the public stage”, p. 110. The last hypothesis (6 January 1602) is usually considered as the most plausible of all four options. Elizabeth McFadden, Fur Dress, Art and Class Identity in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England and Holland. Unpublished PhD thesis, UC Berkeley, 2019, p.60. The thesis is available online https://escholarship.org/uc/item/79w6n34n [last accessed on 15/10/2020].

17 “Silk is an umbrella term for many different kinds of textile, some of which are still familiar, some not. In the seventeenth century, ‘velvet’ means silk velvet; ‘satin’ is silk (it refers to the weave, not the fibre); so are damask (named, ultimately, for Damascus, in Syria) and brocade, and taffeta, gauze, tabby, camlet, lustring, sarcenet, tiffany, tissue, let alone blends such as bombazine, grogram, say (silk and wool) or cypress (silk and linen), and many more: the names of textiles are mobile and approximate in time and space, and the more so the more historically distant they become”, Hester Lees-Jeffries, “Going in Silks”, Beyond the Label, a digital intervention in the Fitzwilliam Museum (2019), https://beyondthelabel.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/labels/going-in-silks [last accessed on 22/10/2020].

18 See footnote 13.

19 All references to the Elizabethan sumptuary statutes are excerpted from http://elizabethan.org/sumptuary/index.html [last accessed on 12/10/2020].

20 Stephen Orgel, « Seeing Through Costume », Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare [Online], 26 | 2008, http://journals.openedition.org/shakespeare/1464 [last accessed on 22/10/2020]. See also Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass’s chapter on ‘The Circulation of Clothes and the Making of the English Theater’, in Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory edited by Ann Rosalind Jones and Pater Stallybrass, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 175-206.

21 The Diary of Philip Henslowe from 1591 to 1609, printed from the original manuscript preserved at Dulwich College, edited by J. Payne Collier, Esq., F. S. A. London: The Shakespeare Society, 1845, p. 245.

22 K. Elam, Tweltfh Night, p. 45.

23 H. Lees-Jeffries, ‘Going in Silks’ (2019). Interestingly enough, the play also reverberates the then expanding globalisation of exchanges (whether diplomatic, colonial or commercial), as showing in the references to the Shirley brothers’ 1599 expedition to Persia (see 2.5.175 and 3.4.272). The globalisation of the silk trade took on material substance in the lustrous silk of Simon Higlett’s costumes for Christopher Luscombe’s production of the comedy at the RSC in 2017 and their distinctly Indian inspiration. See for example his design sketch for Orsino (Nicholas Bishop) here: https://cdn2.rsc.org.uk/sitefinity/images/productions/2017-shows/twelfth-night/design-gallery/twelfth-night-2017-costume-designs_2017_234675.tmb-gal-670.jpg?sfvrsn=80e5a621_1, and a gallery of pictures from the production illustrating his silk-centered approach to fabric in the play: https://www.rsc.org.uk/twelfth-night/past-productions/in-focus-christopher-luscombe-2017#&gid=1&pid=2 [last accessed on 18/10/2020].

24 Philip Stubbes, The anatomie of abuses contayning a discouerie, or briefe summarie of such notable vices and imperfections, as now raigne in many Christian countreyes of the worlde: but (especiallie) in a verie famous ilande called Ailgna: together, with most fearefull examples of Gods iudgementes, executed vpon the wicked for the same, aswell in Ailgna of late, as in other places, elsewhere. Verie godly, to be read of all true Christians, euerie where: but most needefull, to be regarded in Englande. Made dialogue-wise, by Phillip Stubbes. Seene and allowed, according to order, London, 1583. I am here referring to the University of Oxford TCP digitised edition, http://downloads.it.ox.ac.uk/ota-public/tcp/Texts-HTML/free/A13/A13086.html [last accessed on 09/09/2020].

25 Quoted by L. Bich Luu Immigrants and the Industries of London, 1500-1700, p. 184.

26 “mon habit de velours à passementeries” in Cadiot’s translation, La Nuit des rois, p. 93.

27 As an illustration of the kind of images that had inspired her, Wetzel sent me this picture http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-c2VEERn1CSY/VOtn2suTbHI/AAAAAAAAT0s/0E2qiCdldxQ/s1600/rois-africains-roi-africain-7-img.jpg. Others still can be viewed online at the following address: http://portraits-african-afroamerican-people.blogspot.com/p/daniel-laine-photographe-de-presse-et.html [last accessed on 18/10/2020].

28 Dans la traduction de Cadiot : “Ton destin t’ouvre les bras, embrasse-le de tout ton corps et de toute ton âme. Pour te préparer à ce que tu deviendras, abandonne ton ancienne peau et réapparais tout neuf.”, La Nuit des rois, p. 100.

29 Twelfth Night, p. 418.

30 For a copy of the portrait see Yani Fong, “Unknown British Painter, Portrait of a Woman” (2018), https://fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu/1600-unknown-british-painter/ [last accessed on 25/10/2020].

31 Ben Marsh, Unravelled Dreams: Silk and the Atlantic World, 1500-1840. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020, p. 99-100.

32 Thomas B. Pugh ‘A Portrait of Queen Anne of Denmark at Parham Park, Sussex’. The Seventeenth Century 8, no. 2 (1993), p. 168.

33 See http://elizabethan.org/sumptuary/index.html [last accessed on 12/10/2020]

34 H. Lees-Jeffries, ‘Going in silks’. Among all four hypotheses regarding the date of the first performance of Twelfth Night, three of them (including the most probable) point to an indoor performance that would have required the use of candlelight. See footnote 16 above.

35 Lynx fur linings were most fashionable at the time and appear in many portraits of noble men and women around these years. See the examples discussed on the Renaissance Skin project website, and more specifically on the page dedicated to “consuming” fur (https://renaissanceskin.ac.uk/themes/consuming/ [last accessed on 30/03/2021], which also mentions that “lynx was among the most expensive of furs to purchase in the sixteenth century. It was also one of the most distinctive, with its thick, spotted fur. The lynx has two coats: a short, reddish summer coat, and a thick grey-brownish winter coat. The latter was most valued for garments and, like sable, was imported from Russia.” Both the date and aspect of the lining in the portrait (its thickness and colour) thus contributed to the identification of the origin of the fur.

36 The full selection of pictures for the Alençon project can be accessed here: https://faberfabcostumes.com/portfolio/alencon-project/ [last accessed on 30/10/2021] while the Don Carlos costume (only without the fur) is visible here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BfbsxaqnbpT/ [last accessed on 30/10/2020]. Over the course of our brief discussion of this particular project, Lo Piparo explained he makes a point of sourcing second-hand fashion, in order to preserve endangered animal species.

37 See Kathleen Walker Meikle’s section on fur in the Renaissance Skin project’s page on consuming skin in early modern England, https://renaissanceskin.ac.uk/themes/consuming/ [last accessed on 24/10/2020].

38 Christopher Breward discusses the many complex connotations behind both the sumptuary proclamations and pamphlets against fashionable consumption in The Culture of Fashion. A New History of Fashionable Dress. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995, see in particular p. 54-61. Although of foreign origin, fur was also considered as a symbol of England's commercial and colonial authority. Thus, in spite of the distinction between domestic production and furs from outside England, Ireland and Wales which was central to sumptuary legislation in the British Isles. See Maria Hayward, ‘Luxury in Scottish and English Sumptuary Law’, in The Right to Dress. Sumptuary Laws in a Global Perspective c. 1200-1800, edited by Giorgio Riello and Ulinka Rublack. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019, pp. 96-120. The import of furs from outside the kingdom could at times also be used as a symbol of power and influence. See for example John C. Appleby's analysis of the decline of beaver population in Western Europe which enabled “English colonial promoters" to present the New World as a storehouse of valuable commodities”, all the while fuelling “an economic nationalism which sought to reduce England's dependence on European imports, especially from enemies such as Spain” (Fur, Fashion and Transatlantic Trade during the Seventeenth Century. Chesapeake Bay Native Hunters, Colonial Rivalries and London Merchants, Woodbridge, The Boydell Press, 2021, p. 8). About the development of trade networks related to elite fashion - including fur - in early modern Europe, see also Gabriele Mentges, European Fashion (1450-1950), in: European History Online (EGO), published by the Institute of European History (IEG), Mainz 2011-06-03, http://www.ieg-ego.eu/mentgesg-2011-en, paragraph 22 and following [last accessed on 20/09/2021].

39 E. McFadden, Fur Dress, p. 54.

40 Cadiot translates this as “espèce de petit animal hypocrite ! Qu’est-ce que tu vas devenir quand tes poils vont blanchir?”, La Nuit des rois, p. 188.

41 Twelfth Night, p. 504.

42 Elam even interprets Feste’s remark about Orsino’s double of “changeable taffeta” as a hint at effeminacy: “the clown’s allusion to [Orsino’s] silken doublet may […] imply excess and effeminacy, of dress as of mind, his ‘changeable’ moods being a traditionally ‘feminine’ trait”, Twelfth Night, p. 60-61.

43 E. McFadden, Fur Dress, p. 73.

44 E. McFadden, Fur Dress, p. 53.

45 As such, the hand/glove connection and the tactile dimension of fur, its sensuousness, are reminiscent of A. R. Jones and P. Stallybrass’s analysis of leather gloves in ‘Fetishizing the Glove in Renaissance Europe’. Critical Inquiry 28, no.1 (2001), p. 114-132. They ask “Where does the skin of animal end and the skin of human begin?”, ‘Fetishizing the Glove’, p. 123.

46 Nicholas Hilliard, The Arte of Limning edited by R. K. R. Thornton, and T. G. S. Cain, Manchester: The Mid Northumberland Arts Group, Carcanet Press, 1992, p. 64. About Nicholas Hilliard and animal agency in the portrait miniature, see Anne-Valérie Dulac,https://www.canal-u.tv/video/msh_clermont_ferrand/anne_valerie_dulac_l_accessoire_en_son_pouvoir_objets_animaux_sur_la_scene_anglaise_de_la_renaissance.54391 [last accessed on 24/10/2020]. This presentation will soon be published as an article (in English).

47 N. Hilliard, The Arte of Limning, p. 53.

48 Thomas Ostermeier in his interview for theatre-contemporain.net said : le désir trouve des voies singulières de réalisation, non déterminées par la norme, comme le découvre chacun des personnages, et il en va de même pour le spectateur, https://www.theatre-contemporain.net/spectacles/La-Nuit-des-rois-23999/ensavoirplus/idcontent/88147 [last accessed on 30/03/2020].

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: An overall view of the stage and part of the catwalk
Crédits © Nina Wetzel
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 26k
Titre Fig. 2: The armchair and rug designed by Nina Wetzel, a close up
Crédits © Nina Wetzel
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 58k
Titre Fig.3: An actor wearing one of the ape suits during rehearsals
Crédits © Nina Wetzel
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 138k
Titre Fig. 4: Nina Wetzel’s preliminary sketch for the set
Crédits © Nina Wetzel
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 37k
Titre Fig. 5: Christophe Montenez, (Andrew Gueule de Fièvre)
Crédits © Jean-Louis Fernandez
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 42k
Titre Fig. 6: Sébastien Pouderoux (Malvolio), donning the leopard skin
Crédits © Jean-Louis Fernandez
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 41k
Titre Fig .7: The painted leopard skin
Crédits © Nina Wetzel
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 32k
Titre Fig. 8: Nina Wetzel’s costume design for Maria
Crédits © Nina Wetzel
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 38k
Titre Fig. 9:  Alonso Sánchez Coello, El Príncipe don Carlos (1555-1559). Oil on canvas, 109 x 95 cm
Légende Museo del Prado, inv. P00136
Crédits © Museo del Prado
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 42k
Titre Fig. 10: Denis Podalydès (Orsino) et Adeline d’Hermy (Olivia)
Crédits © Jean-Louis Fernandez
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Fig. 11: Unknown artist, Prince Hercule-François, Duc d'Alençon, 1572. Oil on canvas, 188.6 x 102.2 cm
Crédits Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, inv. 1961.9.55
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 46k
Titre Fig. 12: Fabio Lo Piparo, Alençon Project, A re-enactment of the Alençon portrait, 2019
Crédits © Fabio Lo Piparo
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 53k
Titre Fig. 13: Nina Wetzel’s costume design for Viola-as-Cesario
Crédits © Nina Wetzel
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 39k
Titre Fig. 14: Nicholas Hilliard, Elizabeth I, c. 1595-1600. Watercolour on vellum, 6.5 x 5.3 cm
Légende Victoria & Albert Museum, inv. 622-1882
Crédits © The Victoria and Albert Museum
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Titre Fig. 15: Preliminary research for the ape suits and masks
Crédits © Nina Wetzel
URL http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/docannexe/image/3583/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 57k
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Référence électronique

Anne-Valérie Dulac, « Silks and Skins »Apparence(s) [En ligne], 11 | 2022, mis en ligne le 11 février 2022, consulté le 30 juin 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/apparences/3583 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/apparences.3583

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Auteur

Anne-Valérie Dulac

Senior lecturer in Elizabethan studies at Sorbonne Université. She holds a research fellowship with LARCA and the Maison Française d’Oxford starting September 2021.

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Les contenus de la revue Apparence(s) sont disponibles selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d’Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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