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Album - Drury Lane Design Collection
  • Drury Lane Design Collection
    Comelli, Attilio, born 1858 - died 1925
  • Enlarge image

Drury Lane Design Collection

  • Object:

    Album

  • Place of origin:

    London (probably)

  • Date:

    1897

  • Artist/Maker:

    Comelli, Attilio, born 1858 - died 1925 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    watercolour on tracing paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by George Hoare, Archivist of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

  • Museum number:

    S.751:15-2012

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Design from an album of costume designs by Attilio Comelli (1858-1925) for a production of Babes in the Wood at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1897. It appears to show the costume worn by a character in the Sport's Club, possibly an alternative version of the costume for the Master of the Buckhounds.

Comelli (1858-1925) was the house designer of the Royal Opera House from the late 1880s to the early 1920s. During this period he also worked for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and also designed costumes from a number of Gilbert & Sullivan productions.

The designs were produced for a production of Babes in the Wood at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1897. The production was written and invented by Arthur Sturgess and Arthur Collins, with music composed, selected and arranged by J.M.Glover. The costumes were specially designed and supervised by A.Comelli. They were made by Swan and Edgar, B.J. Simmons, Auguste et Cie, Chas., Mrs. S. May, Westoby, Debenham and Freebody, Morris Angel and Son, Fisher, Miss. Collier and Alias.

The pantomime Babes in the Wood was originally based on an old English ballad from 1595, called 'The Children in the Wood' or 'The Norfolk Gentleman's Last Will and Testament' and tells the story of two children, abandoned deep in the forest upon the orders of their Wicked Uncle. It was first staged in 1793 as an opera called, The Children in the Wood, at the Haymarket Theatre. A version of the story was revived again at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1827 in a pantomime entitled Harlequin and Cock Robin or The Babes in the Wood, the finale of which included tightrope walking! In 1867 the character of Robin Hood was introduced to the story and in most interpretations of the story he arrives to rescue ‘the babes’. In the 1897 production of Babes in the Wood at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane starred the adult comedians Dan Leno (1860-1904) and Herbert Campbell (1844-1904) as ‘The Boy Babe’ and ‘The Girl Babe’, though most previous, and subsequent, productions cast small children, or juvenile performers, in these roles. In the second half of the pantomime, which also featured Harriet Vernon (1852[?]-1923) as Robin Hood, the babes grew up, and were seen enjoying a fashionable and exciting life in the city.

Physical description

Design from an album of costume designs by Attilio Comelli (1858-1925) for a production of Babes in the Wood at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1897. The design has been created with watercolour paint on tracing paper and mounted on paper. It shows a costume for a character in the 'Sport's Club Scene', possibly an alternative version for the Master of the Hounds costume (though this annotation has been crosed through). The costume depicted consists of white breeches with pale yellow garters on each calf, and finishing in pale white pumps. There is also a close fitting pale yellow with exaggerated 'leg-o-mutton' sleeves and wide lapels, bordered in black which is open at the front to reveal a ruffled shirt front and ornate neckcloth. Both the neckcloth and the lapel are decorated with a small gold horseshoe. The figure also carries a black, bicorne hat in their left hand and has a pink rose pinned to their left shoulder.

Place of Origin

London (probably)

Date

1897

Artist/maker

Comelli, Attilio, born 1858 - died 1925 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

watercolour on tracing paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Wederman/Haumack[?]'
Handwritten annotation in pencil and blue pencil crayon, top left hand corner. The first word has been crossed through.

'Sport's Club'
Handwritten annotation in blue pencil crayon, top right hand corner

'Marker/Master of the Hounds'
Handwritten annotation in blue pencil crayon, the second phrase has been crossed through, bottom right hand corner

'Alias'
Handwritten annotation in blue pencil crayon, rear of sketch

Dimensions

Length: 35.2 cm approximate, Width: 27.1 cm approximate

Object history note

This album contains a series of costume designs by Attilio Comelli (1858-1925). Comelli was the house designer of the Royal Opera House from the late 1880s to the early 1920s. During this period he also worked for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and also designed costumes from a number of Gilbert & Sullivan productions. The programme for this particular production declares that the costumes were 'specially designed and supervised' by the designer.

Descriptive line

Design from an album of costumes designs by Attilio Comelli (1858-1925), created for a production of Babes in the Wood at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1897.

Materials

Paper; Watercolour

Techniques

Painted

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure; Pantomime; Theatre; Designs; Costumes

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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