I’m often surprised how many young students of sets and costume design do not know some historical masters of the scenography.
So I want to create a section on my blog about the masters of the past. Then I start with the incredible Lila De Nobili and her fantastic history and career.
Lila de Nobili (1916–2002) was a celebrated Italian fashion illustrator,and later stageand costume designer. She was noted for her work atVogue magazine, designing covers which are now classic pieces of fashion history.
Lila de Nobili was born at Lugano, Switzerland, on September 3 1916, to an Italian father and a Hungarian mother. Lila never went to school; instead she concentrated on drawing and painting.
She moved to Paris, in the 1930s she began designing clothes for French Haute Couture fashion houses.
She was well known on numerous European theatre and operatic stages in the 1950s and 1960s for her romantic settings and famous for working with Franco Zeffireli and Luchino Visconti at the Teatro alla Scala.
In the 1950s, De Nobili started working with theatre and film director Luchino Visconti, and in1955 began creating the costumes for La Traviata at La Scala Opera House, Milan, with the renowned Maria Callas as Violetta. This work has been inspiraton for Catherine Martin and the costume for Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge.
Impressive was her pictorial trait, her illustrations reminiscent of paintings by Boldini and some impressionst painter.
In Britain, she won renown for six Shakespeare productions for the young Peter Hall at Stratford-on-Avon between 1957 and 1962.
She went on to work for Laurence Olivier at the National Theatre on Congreve’s Love for Love (1965); her sets were used again for a revival 20 years later.
She also worked at Covent Garden and Glyndebourne; dressed Maria Callas in La Traviata (1955), and designed costumes in Paris for Edith Piaf and Ingrid Bergman.
Lila de Nobili also worked with Hall on Twelfth Night (1958) and The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1960). She dressed Audrey Hepburn for Gigi on Broadway and contributed to a number of Visconti productions.
In her final years, Lila de Nobili (died aged 85) became something of a recluse in Paris surrounded only by his cats. But she spent much of her time teaching painting to underprivileged children. She never married.