Abstract

This essay considers the trope of pallor—both its traditional associations with melancholy, illness, and death and its evolving signification as an emblem of Tragedy and of artistic and aristocratic distinction more generally. Focusing on the convergence of pallor and Tragedy in visual and verbal representations of Sarah Siddons, it examines the multi-layered valences of “tragic pallor” within the broader economy of eighteenth-century performance culture. Tracing the physiological and cultural connotations of pallor from melancholy to the artificial whiteness of makeup, I argue that Siddons’s pallor functioned emblematically as a visual signifier of the emotional depth and authenticity of her acting and dramatic genius.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-315X
Print ISSN
0013-2586
Pages
pp. 479-502
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-06
Open Access
No
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