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Lady Lurgan

and Lady Sophie Scott

as "Furies" - Alecto and Megæra

Both ladies were the daughters of the 5th Earl Cadogan, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1895 to 1902.

The elder, Emily, in 1893 married 3rd Baron Lurgan, whose predecessors are credited with establishing the linen industry in Northern Ireland. The couple later moved to London, where Baron Lurgan held directorships in many public companies and in 1925 became chairman of the Carlton and Ritz Hotels.

Sophie married in 1896 Sir Samuel Scott, 6th Bt, a soldier and politician, who later presided over the International Association of the Promotion and Protection of Trade.

The sisters dressed for the Ball most impractically as two of the personifications of vengeance, known to the Romans as "the Furies."

Taking their costume components from Dante's Inferno, they wore "classical draperies" with hanging sleeves of crimson gauze shot with gold. For Dante's "waists cinctured with green hydras", they wore girdles of jewelled serpents with emerald and ruby eyes. Where the Inferno states "For hair they had horned snakes and poison adders", they wore jewelled serpent head-dresses. To finish off the outfits they wore serpent armlets and carried torches - although in this portrait the flames have been added by the retouching department.

The Furies, malevolent spirits from the underworld, were famously apostrophised in John Dryden's 1679 play, Oedipus:

Hear, ye sullen powers below:
Hear, ye taskers of the dead.
You that boiling cauldrons blow,
You that scum the molten lead.
You that pinch with red-hot tongs;
You that drive the trembling hosts
Of poor, poor ghosts,
With your sharpened prongs...

Oedipus, Act III, John Dryden, 1727


Negative number: V&A L1472a, 20-07-1897