This loads the main Lafayette Index pageThis loads the Devonshire House Ball list of sitters with hyperlinksThis loads the page of Indian sitters with hyperlinksA short history of the Lafayette Studio SIDMOUTH, LADY
Neg. No: (GP) 6205
Neg. Size: 12"x10"
Neg. Date: 24-06-1920

copyright V&A


Sitter: Mary, Viscountess Sidmouth, née Mary Murdoch Johnstone (d. 1983).

Mary, Viscountess Sidmouth, née Mary Murdoch Johnstone (d. 1983).


Viscountess Sidmouth, née Mary Murdoch Johnstone, was the daughter of the British Chief Judge of Lahore, and indeed her 1915 marriage to the Viscount took place in the Indian hill station of Simla where the weather was cool enough for the top rank of the British colonial administration to hold their balls, parties and other festivities. The couple’s engagement had been announced in The Tatler under the heading “Cupid in War Time”.

For the second Court of the Season on 24 June 1920, Viscountess Sidmouth wears a gown in soft sky blue and gold brocade with panniers on the hips and an empiecement of diamonds and diamond chains, and a diamond tiara.

The press reported of the 1920 Season that it was the “first year which can properly suggest a comparison with pre-war standards, since last ‘season’, with peace still unaccomplished, was merely a pale ghost of its former gay predecessors... The revival of the ‘Courts’... sent a thrill of excitement through the social world, and the youth of Mayfair and Belgravia were jubilant at the prospect of being well and truly launched once more.”

Viscountess Sidmouth’s gown is the first time the photographs in the Lafayette archive show the almost completely unstructured “flapper style” of dress. The much shorter train and the unrestricting gown mean that the wearer would have been able to move much more freely.


Biog: Daughter of Sir Donald Campbell Johnstone; m. (1915) Gerald William Addington, 5th Viscount Sidmouth.

Date: 24 June 1920.

Occasion: The Court, 24 June 1920: presented by Mrs. J.E.H. Balfour.

Location: The Lafayette Studio, 179 New Bond Street, London, W.

Descr: FL standing.

Costume: Court dress: "Gown in soft sky blue and gold brocade with panniers on the hips and an impiecement of diamonds and diamond chains and a diamond tiara" (see: The Times, 25 June 1920, p 20d).

Costume Supplier: Jay's.

Jewellery: -

Furniture & Props: Painted backdrop; Rococo highbacked armchair.

Photographer: Lafayette Ltd., 179 New Bond Street, London.

Evidence of photographer at work: -

No of poses: 1.

Copyright: V&A

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Provenance: Pinewood Studios; acquired 1989.


Biog: Burke's Peerage.

Occasion: The Times, 26 June 1920, p 10c.

Costume: The Court Journal, 18 June 1920, p 322a; The Times, 25 June 1920, p 20d.

Costume Supplier: The Times, 25 June 1920, p 20d.

Jewellery: -

Reproduced: (version) The Gentlewoman, 10 July 1920, p 49; The Queen, 17 July 1920, front page.