Item #CL205-8 Madame Sibley [Australian Phrenologist And Mesmerist]
Madame Sibley [Australian Phrenologist And Mesmerist]
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Madame Sibley [Australian Phrenologist And Mesmerist]

c1870s. Albumen paper photograph, carte-de-visite format, captioned in ink on backing verso, studio line printed on backing below image and verso, 9.5 x 5.6cm. Minor scuffing, some discolouration, laid down on original backing.

Madame Sibley is shown posed next to three skulls on a side table. Studio line includes “J.E. Bray, Portrait & landscape photographer, Beechworth, Victoria.”

Marie Sibley (c1830–1894), “mesmerist and phrenologist, performed in towns throughout Australia for nearly twenty years. Purportedly French-born, she arrived in Sydney around 1867 and worked as a clairvoyant, making her first stage appearances in 1868. By 1871 she was in Melbourne, ‘manipulating heads’ for packed houses at Weston’s Opera House on Bourke Street before embarking on a tour of Victoria. Through the 1870s she toured New South Wales and Queensland, her shows incorporating seances, phrenological readings and hypnotisms whereby audiences members were induced to fight, dance, sing or behave absurdly…By the mid-1880s she was in New South Wales again, performing with her daughter, ‘Zel the Magnetic Lady’, and advertising her range of remedies for conditions such as gout, rheumatism and neuralgia. She was known by various names throughout her career although it is unclear how many husbands she had. Having ‘retired from the platform’ she ran a store at Drake, near Tenterfield, where she died in April 1894.” Her death certificate states that her name was “Marie Element.” James E. Bray, the photographer who took this image, was in Beechworth, Victoria at the time Sibley was performing in the area during the 1870s. Ref: National Portrait Gallery; Bishop, Minding Her Own Business: Colonial Businesswomen in Sydney, 2015.

Item #CL205-8

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