Costume designs of Sally Jacobs

Costume designs of Sally Jacobs

Large collection come up for auction

A collection of 297 stage costume designs by Sally Jacobs (1932-2020) comes for sale at Chiswick Auctions’ sale of Books and Works on Paper on May 24.  The archive, that includes mixed media designs for important stage Royal Shakespeare Company productions from the 1960s, is expected to sell for £18,000-22,000.

Jacobs worked at the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1962-65 before moving to Los Angeles to produce designs for the Mark Taper Forum until 1982. The designs here include the 26 costumes for the RSC’s production of Love's Labours Lost in 1964 plus 15 designs for company’s The Screens, directed the same year by Peter Brook. The 17 designs for the RSC’s Don Gil of the Green Breeches by Tirso de Molina include those for named actors Diana Rigg and Glenda Jackson.

Sally Jacobs

Glenda Jackson costume by Sally Jacobs - 1979 RSC Anthony & Cleopatra


Jacobs’ career was innovative, wide-ranging and influential. Among the later designs in the collection (almost all are signed and dated) are those created for productions at the English National Opera and the Royal Opera in the 1980s and 90s.

 At Covent Garden, Jacobs had followed her triumph on Turandot with another Serban production, Fidelio in 1986. She created the set as a vast dungeon which finally breaks open as Leonora rescues Florestan and sunlight floods the stage. All 25 stage designs for the production are part of the archive.

For the ENO in 1988 she also designed a critically approved Eugene Onegin, directed by Graham Vick (51 designs for the production are featured here) as are the 31 designs for the David Freeman’s 1996 version of Zimmermann’s modern classic Die Soldaten.

Clive Moss, specialist at Chiswick Auctions, says the work compare favourably with those held by institutions including the Harvard Theatre Collection and Victoria & Albert Museum. “The artworks in the present collection offer an insight into the costume design process behind landmark productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera. In Jacobs’ signature style, they colourfully depict an array of British acting royalty.”


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