Costume for Lavinia in Androcles and the Lion

Costume for Lavinia in Androcles and the Lion

George Bernard Shaw's Androcles and the Lion was a parody of a successful melodrama The Sign of the Cross. In its treatment of the persecution of the Christians by the Romans, The Sign of the Cross found the perfect mix of religion and bloodshed which Hollywood later enthusiastically embraced in its biblical epics. Shaw, however, knew that the real appeal lay less in the religion than in the bloody spectacle of Christians being tortured and thrown to the lions. His version treats the subject with ruthless, witty logic and ends with the lion recognising Androcles as the person who had once taken a thorn out of his foot and the two of them waltzing around the arena together. Impressed, the Emperor pardons the Christians, who are quite put out at being denied martyrdom.

This stylish costume was designed by Albert Rutherston for Lillah McCarthy playing Lavinia, Shaw's Christian heroine, in 1913. It evokes the simplicity and elegance of Roman dress, with the overbodice and simple flowing skirt made in the lightest of silks hand-painted with geometric and stylised floral motifs.