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The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century$
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Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195365870

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195365870.001.0001

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Idealizing the Prima Donna in Mid-Victorian London 1

Idealizing the Prima Donna in Mid-Victorian London 1

(p.21) Chapter 2 Idealizing the Prima Donna in Mid-Victorian London1
The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century

Roberta Montemorra Marvin

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 explores the visual culture of nineteenth-century British spectatorship by examining images of prima donnas that were published in one of the principal English newspapers, the Illustrated London News. Dress, ornament, posture, and physiognomy were each subtle codes through which aspects of personality were communicated, and newspaper editors and illustrators were adept at manipulating these codes to specific ends. In some cases these can be seen working against what the readers’ prior impressions of a prima donna might have been, based on reports of her irregular private life and moral transgressions. This revealing case study offers insights into ideologies of gender that literally shaped the image and the public’s perception of Italian opera stars in the years before newspapers moved over from engravings to photography.

Keywords:   visual culture, image, Illustrated London News, dress, physiognomy, engravings, prima donnas, newspapers

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