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Lola Montez
Title : Lola Montez Lola Montez
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Creator : Skipper, John Michael, artist
Date of creation : 1855
Format : Artwork
Dimensions : 90 x 60 mm
Catalogue record
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Description :

Sketch of Lola Montez dancing the Spider Dance.

Irish born actress and dancer Lola Montez sailed from America to Australia in 1855, to appear on stage at Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. She had earlier appeared in burlesque, comedies and dramas, in theatres in Europe, and in America in New Orleans and the Californian goldfields. Lola was one of the best-known women of the Victorian era. Her turbulent private life, which included liaisons with Alexandre Dumas and Franz Liszt, as well as her stage performances, piqued great interest when she visited Australia.

Her dance repertoire included the notorious, energetic 'Spider Dance'. It is reputed that when she performed this dance in front of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, he asked 'But my dear, are they real?' in reference to the spiders. The affronted Lola ripped away her upper garment and responded 'But of course'. The provocative 'Spider Dance' caused some consternation among audiences in the eastern colonies, where the newspapers denigrated her performances, and she was threatened with legal action.

In Adelaide Lola enjoyed rapturous receptions when she danced at the [Royal] Victoria Theatre (known in the 1840s and today as Queen's Theatre) to standing room only audiences. She gave numerous performances from 26 November to 31 December 1855. The local press recorded extremely complimentary reviews, for example, The Adelaide times 1 December 1855 described her performance as 'a brilliant triumph'.

In 1856 Lola performed at the Ballarat goldfields to most appreciative miners whom it is said showered her with gold nuggets on stage. Relations were not so favoured with the editor of a Ballarat newspaper - Lola considered that Harry Seekamp had slandered her name, so she horse-whipped him in public. Two years later she returned to America, where she gave lectures about fashion and beauty, and worked with destitute women at Magdalen Asylum in New York. She died in New York in 1861.

Artist John Michael Skipper sketched many aspects of colonial South Australia, including the landscape, flora, and fauna, and Adelaide streets, buildings, people, and notable events. Skipper made several sketches of Lola Montez at the Victoria Theatre.

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)

State Library of Victoria: Pictures Cataloguesee : Montez, Lola (1818-1861)

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

Victoria Theatre, Gilles Arcade (Adelaide) ca.1861 SLSA



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