Presented here is an advertising poster for the performance of the equestrian acrobats of Luigi and Giovanni Guillaume’s company Gran Circo Olimpico (Great Olympic Circus), dated May 24, 1846, and issued by Taddei, a local printer in Ferrara. The Guillaume family, hailing from France, was the most active dynasty in the Italian circus scene in the 19th century. No certain documentation on their origins can be found—one account describes them as Lyon noblemen who escaped to Italy from the French Revolution and employed their riding skills in acrobatic equestrian shows; another says that they were circus performers who continued in Italy the acts they had performed in their youth in France. The earliest references to the family in Italy go back to September 1804, after which various family members were active in circuses for about the next 100 years. The last known family name in the business is that of Rodolfo Guillaume, after which a marriage between circus families led to the Guillaumes being subsumed into the Gatti-Manetti Circus. The first name of the circus dynasty was Francois Louis, later Francesco Luigi, who founded his own circus. Francesco Luigi worked together with his wife Maddalena, who performed as an Amazon. Husband and wife performed at the Arena in Verona in 1811, during the celebrations for the birth of Napoleon’s son, François Joseph Charles Bonaparte. The Guillaume family had sufficiently close relations with the imperial dynasty that Napoleon’s sister, Caroline, Queen of Naples, was godmother of one of the Guillaume daughters. This relationship obviously helped the Guillaumes to become the most popular circus company in Italy during the period of French domination. The family settled in Brescia in 1817, when it is known that Francesco Luigi Guillaume resided in his own home in the city. By 1851 the theater bearing the family name was used almost exclusively for their performances—this was something unique in Italy. No other circus family had this privilege.
Place: Europe; Italy
Institution: Educational Documentation Centre of Circus Arts (CEDAC)
Physical description: 1 poster ; 49.5 x 43 centimeters