These four beautiful works of art, the New Zealand Hangings, depicting Hercules, Atlas, Venus and Adonis are a permanent feature in the Globe Exhibition.
From 15-17 January 2013, the Hangings will be taken down for routine review and repair. The work will be led by Beverley Forbes, one of the original craftspeople who worked on the embroidery. This is a rare opportunity to see the Hangings close up and ask Beverly questions about the work.
The Hangings in close up
Beverley Forbes was a delight to speak to, and clearly passionate about the New Zealand Hangings. For many years she worked as a laboratory technician, including a stint working abroad in Canada on research into cancer. Her involvement with embroidery came about when a friend was to become a Bishop. Beverley decided she wanted to make him a mitre as a gift, and this involves a lot of embroidery. She went to the Wellington School of Embroidery for advice and her interest grew from there.
I spoke to her as she inspected the Atlas panel for wear and tear. It was fascinating to see the Hangings close up, there is so much detail across the whole surface. Areas are built up with layers of fabric, sheer over opaque, with a variety of stitches over the top and in between. The figures of Hercules and Atlas are painted and then worked in over the top. The base of each panel is fire-proofed wool with a variety of fabrics appliquéd on top, including silk, leather, metallic fabrics and net. Framing the panels is firm suede to give them shape.
The metallic fabrics add shine and ask Beverley noted, ‘’the whole thing is about light”. The contrasting surfaces add depth and perspective to the scenes, which is important as they are viewed from afar.
Work on the panels began in the early nineties and it is testament to the excellent embroidery work that there is no need for any repairs. At the time of making there was a “tremendous amount of excitement” in the New Zealand Embroidery Guilds, all of which were involved in the project.
Beverley was most involved with the work on the Hercules and Atlas panels and she pointed out some of the parts that she had personally embroidered. Everyone worked in their own way but it all comes together in a beautiful whole. The creation of the Hangings is very reflective of the Globe ethos of collaboration and the bringing together of experts, which is echoed throughout the organisation and its work. Beverly told me several people had come to the Globe to see the details, such as a lamb, or a butterfly that they had worked on.
To clean them Beverley is very lightly vacuuming the back of the Hangings to remove dust and dirt without disturbing the delicate front surface. It is remarkable how the colours shine after cleaning. Come and see how for yourself in the Exhibition.
History of the Hangings
On 22nd April 1994, the Hangings were unveiled by the Globe’s patron HRH Prince Philip and in June 1997, they adorned the frons scenae throughout the fortnight-long Festival of Firsts to celebrate the official opening of the Globe Theatre. Today, they hang in pride of place in the UnderGlobe of Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition.
Between January 1990 and April 1991, 500 embroiderers from around New Zealand worked devotedly to produce four hangings depicting Hercules and Atlas (the two logos of Shakespeare’s theatre company, The King’s Men), and Venus and Adonis (alluding to Shakespeare’s most famous poem of the same name).
The two narrower hangings of Atlas (holding up the Globe) and Hercules (symbol of strength and courage) were designed for the central door of the stage leading to the ‘discovery space’. The designs relate to the Roman style favoured by Northern Europeans in Shakespeare’s time.
More on New Zealand and Shakespeare’s Globe
New Zealand has a rich and long standing relationship with the Globe and Shakespeare.
In 2009 Shakespeare’s famous Sonnet 18 was translated into te reo Maori and presented to the Globe by the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand to coincide with the 400th anniversary celebrations to mark the publication of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. The sonnet, unveiled by the Deputy High Commissioner for New Zealand, Belinda Brown was read aloud by Maori actor Rawiri Paratene (Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, 2009; Pandarus in The Māori Troilus and Cressida – Toroihi Rāua Ko Kāhira, Globe to Globe festival, 2012). Read more about the presentation.
The Māori Troilus and Cressida – Toroihi Rāua Ko Kāhira was the recipient of several Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards that honour Wellington’s best on and off stage talent, including Supporting Actress, Director, Production and Costume Designer of the year. Dawn Sanders QSM, CEO of Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand received Mayor’s Award for Significant Contribution to Theatre.
Read more about New Zealand, the Globe and the Hangings.
Sîan-Estelle Petty, Digital Officer