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1855

  • First South Australian postage stamps issued; twopence each.
  • 1854-1855: Estimated 5,500 Irish orphan and pauper girls sent out to the colony for work on farms (to address short supply of farm labour caused by gold rush) and as domestic servants.
  • Lola Montez entertains audiences with the Spider dance.

For more information see The Foundation of South Australia: 1852-1883, Key events and issues.

Lola Montez
Title : Lola Montez Lola Montez
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Creator : Skipper, John Michael, artist
Source : B 9422
Date of creation : 1855
Format : Artwork
Dimensions : 90 x 60 mm
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
Catalogue record
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Description :

Sketch of Lola Montes dancing the Spider Dance.


Artist John Michael Skipper sketched many aspects of colonial South Australia, including the landscape, Adelaide streets, buildings, people, and notable events. Skipper made several sketches of Lola Montez when she appeared at the (Royal) Victoria Theatre.

Lola Montez, Irish born actress and dancer, sailed from America to Australia in 1855, to appear on stage in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. As a burlesque, comedy and drama performer, she had appeared in theatres in Europe and America, particularly in New Orleans and the Californian goldfields. Lola was one of the best-known women of the Victorian era. As well as her stage performances, her turbulent private life, which included liaisons with Alexandre Dumas and Franz Liszt, provoked enormous interest when she visited Australia.

Her dance repertoire included the notorious and frenetic 'Spider Dance'. It was reported that when she performed this in front of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, he asked 'But my dear, are they real?' in reference to the spiders. Affronted, Lola ripped away her upper garment and retorted 'But of course!'. The 'Spider Dance' was seen by some as sexually provocative and immoral and caused consternation among audiences in the eastern colonies. There the newspapers denigrated her performances and she was threatened with legal action.

In Adelaide however, Lola enjoyed rapturous receptions when she danced at the Victoria Theatre (which was known in the 1840s as the Queen's Theatre, as it is again today). She performed to standing-room-only audiences, giving numerous performances from 26 November to 31 December 1855. The local press recorded extremely complimentary reviews. For example on 1 December 1855, the Adelaide Times described her performance as 'a brilliant triumph'.

In 1856 Lola performed at the Ballarat goldfields in Victoria, to extremely appreciative miners, who reputedly showered the stage with gold nuggets. Relations were not so positive with the editor of a Ballarat newspaper. Lola believed that Harry Seekamp had slandered her, so she publically horse-whipped him. In 1858 she returned to America, where she gave lectures about fashion and beauty and worked in New York with destitute women at the Magdalen Asylum. She died in New York in 1861.

Subjects
Coverage year : 1855
Period : 1852-1883
Further reading :

'Domestic news: Lola Montes' Adelaide Times 26 November 1855, p. 2, col. f First appearance at the Victoria Theatre.

'Domestic news: Victoria Theatre' South Australian Register 14 December 1855, p. 2, col. e-f

Craig, W (William) My Adventures on the Australian Goldfields London: Cassell, 1903. Describes Lola's performance on stage in Bendigo.

Lola Montes: the tragic story of a liberated woman Melbourne: Heritage Publications, 1973

Pask, Edward H. Enter the colonies, dancing: a history of dance in Australia, 1835-1940 Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 30-38

Seymour, Bruce Lola Montez: a life New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996

Internet links :

Australia Dancingsee : People: Montez, Lola (1818-1861)

Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Editionsee : Montez, Lola (1818-1861); Skipper, John Michael (1815-1883)

Queen's Theatre, Gilles Arcade (Adelaide) 1842 SLSA


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