Mystery Portrait by Joan Scardon

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Scardon smlThis haunting portrait is the work of Joan Scardon, whose inventive costume designs for Ernest C. Rolls' 1935 revues are featured in my recent book Hanky-Panky, the story of maverick producer Rolls and his wife, revue artiste Jenny Benson.

Joan was the daughter of Melbourne-born Hollywood-based film director Paul Scardon (real name William James Raper). She was born in the US in 1913, but in the mid 1930s she lived in Melbourne, studying art and performing with expressionist dancer Sonia Revid. In 1941 she became the second wife of eminent Russian-American violinist and conductor Mishel Piastro. She died in New York in 2003, aged 90.

Joan's step daughter, Leslie Piastro Askwith, who generously made Joan's original costume designs available for reproduction in the book, is keen to establish the identity of the person in the portrait, which she thinks dates from Joan's time in the artistic milieu of mid-1930s Melbourne.

 Any ideas, theories or suggestions will be very welcome!

Read 99 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 March 2021 13:53
Frank Van Straten

Over the years Frank has amassed a vast collection of Australian theatre memorabilia. He was director of the Victorian Arts Centre Performing Arts Museum from 1984 until 1993. For 15 years Frank researched and presented ABC Radio's popular Nostalgia feature over Melbourne's 774. He contributes historical articles to many theatre programs and journals. His books include National Treasure: The Story of Gertrude Johnson and the National Theatre (1994), The Regent Theatre: Melbourne's Palace of Dreams(1996), Tivoli (2003), Huge Deal: The Fortunes and Follies of Hugh D. McIntosh (2004), Florence Young and the Golden Years of Australian Musical Theatre(2009), Her Majesty's Pleasure (Her Majesty's, Adelaide. 2013), Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne: The Shows, The Stars, The Stories (Australian Scholarly Publishing, Kew, 2018), and Hanky-Panky: The Theatrical Escapades of Ernest C. Rolls (2020).