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The Water Nymph, Miss Pansy Montague

c. 1905
an unknown artist

photographic postcard (image/sheet: 13.9 cm x 8.7 cm)

Pansy Montague, ‘La Milo’ (c. 1885-unknown) appeared as a chorus girl and actress in Melbourne from about 1898, and in 1901 understudied Nellie Stewart in Sydney. In 1905 she appeared in Melbourne and Sydney for Harry Rickards’ Variety Theatre as ‘The Modern Milo’ in a series of poses plastiques described as a ‘Fac-simile of Ancient and Modern Statuary and Sculpture’. Her body measurements were widely advertised as weight 11 stone 8 pounds (73.5kg); bust 37”; waist 26”; hips 42”; thighs 26” apiece. In 1906 she went to England and Europe, where through again exhibiting herself clad in next to naught, she revived public interest in ‘living statues’. In the first half of 1907 the Bishop of London called for the London Council to ban living statues, but at the Coventry Pageant in August 1907 La Milo enacted the role of Lady Godiva, riding a horse for five hours in pink ‘fleshings’ under chiffon drapery and lengthy wig before 150 000 spectators including at least one incensed clergyman. In 1908 at the Grand Hotel, Birmingham, she went through a ceremony of marriage to a man going by the name of Ferdinand Eggena. In 1910, the couple appeared in court along with a motor car agent named Percy Easton, the three accused of fraudulently deceiving a jeweller. Pansy Montague claimed that over the past three years, she had earned five thousand pounds a year and could buy herself all the jewels she wanted. She and Easton were acquitted, but Eggena was convicted. La Milo consistently laid claim to the integrity of her art, in 1910 stating ‘There has been much opposition, much unkind criticism, which has pained me very much, and in a half-night of weeping has made me determine to give the whole business up. The only thing that has prevented me from doing so is the conscientious conviction that I am in the right.’ From late 1914 she toured America to packed houses. Soon after, however, she disappears from the historical record; possibly, the war interrupted the supply of white paint which was made for her by a German chemist to simulate marble. Pansy Montague features in Anita Callaway’s scholarly study Visual ephemera: theatrical art in nineteenth-century Australia (2000).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2016

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Pansy Montague (age 20 in 1905)

Subject professions

Performing arts

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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