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The last refuge of pure art: circus performers on the canvases of European artists of the XIX century

Now no one knows exactly when the first circus performers appeared on the planet. But thanks to archaeological finds, we can say for sure that acrobats and jugglers, comedians and trainers demonstrated their skills in the Ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greece, in Rome and Byzantium. This is evidenced by carved drawings on the walls of ancient temples and pyramids. Artists of the 19th century drew inspiration for their work not only under the dome of the circus, in an atmosphere of celebration and miracles, but also in the grueling rehearsals of circus artists, in their backstage life.

The circus is not only a holiday, but also the hard work of people who have dedicated themselves to circus art. That is why the image of the circus in the artistic works of masters of painting is so many-sided and many-sided.

Little history

The history of the circus, however, as well as the theater has its roots deep in the past. Humanity has always loved various kinds of entertainment. For example, in ancient Greece there were chariot races, in China there was a “snake man”, and in Egypt there was a wild animal trainer. Over time, in Rome, there was an idea to combine all these entertainments in a circus-an architectural structure with a circular arena for entertainment with equestrian and acrobatic performances.
Many ancient images have been found on frescoes and amphorae, where it is clear that ancient artists masterfully mastered the art of acrobatics, juggling, athletics, balancing and vaulting on horses. In addition, records of these types of art have been preserved on ancient papyri, where you can even see drawings of tricks performed by circus performers.

The priests of ancient Egypt with the help of various devices worked “miracles” in our day is called illusion. For example, even at that time they could perform tricks under the arches of temples, suddenly presenting the viewer with statues of the gods or the sacred fire on the altars. The subtleties of this mysterious art were passed on by the priests from century to century to their successors.

In ancient Greek papyrus, dated from 2900-2600 years BC, we are talking about the Pharaoh Cheops and his magician and trainer, who was able to “cut off” the goose’s head and again “grow”. And in burials made in 3000 BC found juggling balls made of dry leather, stuffed with grass.

Modern circus art first appeared in France in the 18th century, its creators were the father and son of Astley. Their successors were the Italians Franconi, who introduced pantomimes to the program, and a little later-the fight of various animals among themselves. Over time, the popularity of circus performances, having gone beyond Paris, quickly spread throughout Europe. In addition, at the end of the 19th century, wild animal trainers became very popular in the circus. This genre is the most popular until recently.

According to many art historians, the circus in Russia took its origins from the performances of buffoons and fairground booths. Very popular in Russia was a “bear fun” where the bears are funny and mimicked the habits of the people. These bear comedies became a favorite plot of folk Lubka in the 18th century. And one of the first images of the amphitheater is the frescoes of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Dating from the 11th century, where dancing buffoons, musicians and equilibrists are depicted balancing on a pole.

Multicolored circus performances and the backstage life of actors in the painting of the 19th century
Artists of all countries and different eras have never avoided this topic, because the circus is still the brightest event in the life of large cities and small villages, and in the lives of children and adults.

The first famous artist to depict the performance of a magician manipulating balls and cups was Hieronymus Bosch in the painting “the Conjurer” (15th century.)

Acrobatic, juggling, illusionistic, gymnastic art, in a word – circus skill, attracted artists and sculptors with the opportunity to reflect the harmony and perfection of the human body, to convey the dynamics of its movements in colors and in stone.

We see performances of traveling artists, rope dancers, athletes, acrobats, jugglers on many canvases, but the brush masters were particularly interested in trained animals.

The art of magic, incredible tricks and amazing performances-this is what today’s modern circus embodies, striking in scale and color. Everything gets along in it – clowning, pantomime, acrobatics, balancing act, illusionism and training.

However, in recent years, in many circuses around the world, due to the pressure of the “green” society, artists have been forced to abandon the training of “our little brothers”, since teaching animals any tricks is like torture. And, as a rule, circus Pets die early enough from numerous diseases and a destroyed psyche.

Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, great Britain, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, the Netherlands, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal and about twenty other countries have already banned the use of animals in circuses.

In the middle ages in Western Europe, the favorites of kings and the aristocracy were dwarfs who played the role of artists, buffoons and chief advisers.

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