Setsu, in Darling of The Gods

Setsu, in Darling of The Gods

American actress Ada Lewis (1872-1925) wears a kimono and traditional makeup for her role as Setsu, Yo-San’s maid in esteemed New York theatre producer David Belasco’s production of the Japanese dramatic play The Darling of the Gods. Described by the Internet Broadway Database (IBDB) as being set in the “sword edict” period, when “the Emperor took away the swords of the Samurai – the two-sword men“, it opened at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway on December 3, 1902 and had a first run of 182 performances through May, 1903.

This portrait was done by the important American photographer Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr., whose turn of the 20th Century theatrical portraits  for the A.S. Campbell Art Co. were often reproduced full page in The Theatre (An Illustrated Magazine of Theatrical and Musical Life) around this time, with some examples including actresses Evelyn Nesbitt, Marguerite Clark and Rose Clark.

Although lacking one of the secondary mounts, (I’ve substituted a complimentary non-native mount here) the photograph is notable for its Art Nouveau matting technique done in an Orientalist aesthetic, with protruding marginal flaps outlined in red grease pencil. Eickemeyer’s stylized Kanji monogram at top margin is balanced by a decorative cipher on the lower flap which are tied together with the choice of a red art-paper primary mount.

Type-cast onstage as the original “tough girl”, Ada Lewis was eulogized by Belasco and joined by mourner Blanche Bates-who played Yo-San opposite Ada Lewis in The Darling of the Gods– at her New York funeral in 1925:

“Good-bye, old pal. We’ll never forget you,” exclaimed David Belasco, as the coffin containing the body of Ada Lewis, comedienne, the original stage “tough girl,” was lowered into the grave in Calvary Cemetery yesterday morning. Blanche Bates and Ina Claire were weeping, as were many of the 500 other friends of the dead actress who were present. As the mourners filled past each tossed a white rose into the grave. (1.)

print notations mount recto: primary: in black ink: Setsu, in Darling of The Gods

print notations secondary mount verso: adhesive remnants on corners and flaps indicating loss of another secondary mount; in blue editor’s pencil: 4417

provenance: purchased 2014 from Grapefruit Moon Gallery who previously acquired it from the collection of the Culver Archives.

1. excerpt: Stage Stars Weep For Ada Lewis: The New York Times: Sept. 27, 1925. The obituary concludes by stating Lewis was buried next to husband John Parr, who died in 1901 a year after they married.

Setsu, in Darling of The Gods

Image Dimensions16.9 x 12.2 cm corner-glued

Support Dimensions21.1 x 13.2 cm red art paper | 25.2 x 16.2 cm olive/gray art paper | ornamental marginal flaps: 2.9 x 5.8 cm top & 6.2 cm bottom | non-native secondary mount included as backdrop