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Madame Modjeska in "Cleopatra"

Armlet, c.1885
Paris, France
Gold, emerald and stone; 5 1/2 x 4 3/8 x 4 1/8 in.
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. James Willis Rice

Playing a Role
Soft kid leather gold boots laced with gold braid and an armlet in the shape of a snake were part of Madame Modjeska’s costume for her role in Cleopatra. Madame Helena Modjeska (1840-1909) was considered the premiere Shakespearian actress of American theatre and is still regarded as Poland’s greatest actress. Her acting career began in Warsaw where early on she focused on portraying Shakespearean roles. After marrying her second husband she, her husband and a group of acquaintances, moved to Anaheim, California where they adopted a utopian lifestyle upon their ranch. After its collapse, Modjeska began performing across America in great cities and in small venues alike. She returned to the stage in her native Poland, performed in London and in Rome where after her performance men threw their rings in affection upon the stage. More than a sensation, fans adored her. She was praised for her interpretation of the roles she performed and her contributions to stage acting.

Madame Helena Modjeska as "Cleopatra", c. 1880
R. Wisniewski (Polish); Krakow, Poland
Silver print photograph; 3 7/8 x 4 13/16 in.
Presented to Museum by Myrtle Blakeslee in memory of Felix Modjeska, grandson of Madame Helena Modjeska

Madame Modjeska lived in Newport Beach and at her home, Arden, in the Southern California canyon named after her. Modjeska Peak, the highest point of Saddleback Mountain is also named after her. Bowers Museum holds in its collection approximately 200 of Madame Modjeska’s personal items, theatre costumes and memorabilia, photographs and correspondence.

Madame Modjeska's "Cleopatra" Sandals, c. 1880
Paris, France
Leather, wood, cotton and metal; 9 1/2 × 9 × 2 1/2 in.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James S. Rice

All images and text under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use. Information subject to change with further research.

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