Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bloomsbury Auction

Last week's auction held by Bloomsbury Auctions in New York featured several rare Oz and related pieces, including original artwork by John R. Neill. But the piece that intrigued me, which unfortunately I didn't win, was this lovely costume design by Caroline Siedle for Babes in Toyland.

I've talked about Siedle here before, as she designed costumes for the Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz among a number of other shows. It's interesting that there seems to be confusion about her name - I've seen Siedle, Seidle, and Siedel used in various places! I don't know which is correct, but her obituary spells the name Siedle. I believe this is also the spelling on her tomb at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York. (After writing this this morning, it occurred to me that the obvious way to figure out the answer is to look at her signature! She spelled her name Siedle.)

This particular design was for the Moth Queen - synopses of the original storyline for Babes in Toyland seem to vary, but I believe the Moth Queen helps to rescue the Babes from the Spider's Forest, a scene that sounds reminiscent of the rescue of Dorothy and her companions from the Poppies in The Wizard of Oz - not too surprising as that was inspiration for this later show! I found the photo shown above, featuring the moths, on an Australian website.

5 comments:

Stefanie Walzinger said...

Hi, I just spotted this beautiful sketch of Caroline Siedle here.
"Siedle" is the correct name. Caroline's husband was Edward Siedle, who was the properties manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His family came from Furtwangen (Black Forest, Germany). They were clock-makers and parts of the family immigrated to England. Caroline was English born.
Stefanie

Bill Campbell said...

Thanks for the additional information - I'd love to see more information surface about her life and career!

Stefanie Walzinger said...

Born in England, Caroline Siedle (1867-1907) was one of the earliest designers to receive credit for her work in theater programs. After she married Edward Siedle, the properties master at the Metropolitan Opera, she established an atelier in New York to serve the theatre trade and began to design costumes at the age of twenty-two. In her short career of eighteen years (she died at age forty) she designed fifty-eight musicals on Broadway, an average of three per year. Of the fifty-eight designs, she was the single designer listed for forty eight of them.
If Siedle is remembered at all today, it is probably for three Broadway productions: The Wizard of Oz (1903), with the libretto by L. Frank Baum, Babes of Toyland (1903), composed by Victor Herbert, both directed by Julian P. Mitchel, and Piff!Paff!!Pouff!!! (1904),directed by Gerard Coventry.
Siedle obviously had a comfortable working relationship with Julian Mitchell, and they worked on thirteen productions together. Of her, Mitchell is quoted as saying, “Without her assistance I should never have been able to carry out the musical comedy color schemes which have made beautiful stage pictures” (Greene 2008, 18) […].

During her short career Siedle worked with Ziegfeld, Lew M. Fields, Charles Frohman, and the Shuberts. She also worked with some of the best-known scene designers of the period: Homer Emens, Ernest M. Gros, Frank Dodge, Ernest Albert, Joseph A. Physioc, and Francis Gates and Richard Gates, who in partnership with E.A. Morange had founded the Gates and Morange Studios, an important scenic house of the time. It is also noted in her production credits that she was a director, and she is listed along with R.H. Burnside as responsible for the staging of the musical The Social Whirl that played 195 performances in 1906.
In a career that was much too short, Siedle was noted for her “graceful, feminine costumes” and her contribution to “America’s visual culture with her designs.“ “Her ability to design,” said Julian Mitchell, “amounted to genius” (Greene 2008, 18). Siedle practiced a meticulous rendering style. Her finely drawn and detailed costume designs remind one of the carefully done color illustrations that might grace a book on design.
Steiner-Strauss notes, “The only work by Siedle in the possession of the Theatre Museum is charming ‘Spirit of Gambling’ – a lovely young lady in a hot pink evening gown standing a pose that comically satirizes The Statue of Liberty. Of all the designers represented in the Theatre Museum, her work best demonstrates the style of the fin de si├Ęcle: with some elements still reminiscent of the historicism of the late nineteenth century. Siedle’s costume designs have a captivating charm, and she often chooses daring poses with which to present them.” (From “American Broadway Costume Designers in the Theatre Museum in Vienna, by Delbert Unruh and Ione Unruh, with Alexandra Steiner-Strauss, 2013).

http://tdt.usitt.org/GetPDF.aspx?PDF=49-1BroadwayVienna

Alice said...

I found in our local thrift store two costume drawings by Caroline Siedle. The writing below the etchings refer to "Muggins - Chimney Sweep - Act 1" and "Muggins - Second Dress - Act 1. They are framed and in wonderful condition. Any ideas as to date, which opera, or value? Thanks.

Bill Campbell said...

What a nice find! Siedle worked on so many productions, it's difficult to say what they might have been intended for. She died in 1907, so they would be before that date. If you have images that you'd be willing to email to me, I'd love to see them. My email is wcam60@aol.com. Thanks!