In The Spotlight
Giuseppe Chiarini (1823-1897) was perhaps the most influential circus director of the nineteenth century: During a professional career that spanned fifty-eight years, his extensive and incessant international tours led him from Europe to North and South America, to India and Asia, and down to Australia. In many places that had not yet been exposed to the circus, Chiarini’s was the first circus the locals had ever seen—and this exposure sometimes triggered there the creation of an indigenous circus inspired by Chiarini’s shows.
Over the years, Chiarini performed for Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, Emperors Maximilian I of Mexico, Dom Pedro of Brazil, Mitsuhito of Japan, King Rama V of Siam, an assortment of Indian Rajahs, and for various government officials and politicians. His Royal Italian Circus—which could become Royal Spanish Circus when needed—was in fact an American enterprise based in California. A true circus man, Chiarini was indubitably a citizen of the world.
Giuseppe Chiarini came from a large and ancient Italian family of traveling entertainers, whose first recorded appearance was at the Foire Saint-Laurent, one of France’s oldest fairs, in 1580. Many Chiarinis, more or less directly related to Giuseppe, have since been chronicled in popular entertainment and circus history—a very diverse crowd of acrobats, ropedancers, puppeteers, ballet dancers, and equestrians.
In his novel Die Vagabunden (1895) the German poet Karl von Holtei immortalized one of them, Francesco Chiarini; in the 1780s, this Chiarini managed a company of acrobats and puppeteers, and ran a very successful Théâtre d’Ombres Chinoises (shadow puppet theater). His daughter, Angélique, a celebrated equestrienneA female equestrian, or horse trainer, horse presenter, or acrobat on horseback., had been featured in 1793 at the Amphithéâtre Franconi—the former Amphithéâtre Astley—in Paris, and later in the troupe of Jacques Tourniaire. (more...)
- Victor Fomine, Acrobat, Circus Coach
- Annie Fratellini, Clown, Circus Director
- Joel Baker, Clown
- Irina Naumenko, Hand Balancer
- The Owl and The Pussycat, Trapeze Act
- Pyongyang Flying Troupe, Flying Act (2000)
- Marina Osinskaya, High Wire (1995)
- Louise Nathhorst, High School Act (1995)
- Chy Bao Guy Troupe, Chinese Acrobatics (1967)
- Pyongyang Juggling Troupe, Group Juggling (2000)
Featured Oral Histories
- A Short History of Madrid's Old Circo Price, Circus History (1970)
- Anastasia Dementieva-Kornilova – Vadim Vernik Interview (2017)
- Les Frères Knie, Documentary (1962)
- Jean Richard and Jean-Pierre Richard at the Cirque Jean Richard – Christian Boner Interview (1979)
- Jérôme Medrano about Buster Keaton at the Cirque Medrano (1947)
Featured Circopedia Book
- Philip Astley & The Horsemen who invented the Circus, by Dominique Jando (2018)
A Message from the Editor
CIRCOPEDIA is a constantly evolving and expanding archive of the international circus. New videos, biographies, essays, and documents are added to the site on a weekly—and sometimes daily—basis. Keep visiting us: even if today you don't find what you're looking for, it may well be here tomorrow! And if you are a serious circus scholar and spot a factual or historical inaccuracy, do not hesitate to contact us: we will definitely consider your remarks and suggestions.
- Dominique Jando
- Founder and Curator