Edict Prohibiting Traveling Shows Throughout Tuscany


This edict, dated February 1, 1780, was promulgated by Domenico Brichieri Colombi, fiscal auditor of the city of Florence, in execution of orders issued by Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany (reigned 1765−90). It prohibited public performances by traveling entertainers so as not to give to the people “opportunities to dissipate themselves vainly.” The edict applied to “Charlatans, Cantimbanchi [street singers], Storytellers, Puppeteers, Peddlers, Jugglers, and all those who carry on freak shows, exhibit Machines, Animals, or who sell secrets, and to any other foreigner who goes wandering to procure his board with any similar job." The edict essentially banned employment in the artistic universe that until that time had been part of trade shows and commedia dell’arte companies in Italy. It was part of a series of reforms in commerce, justice, and public administration put in place by the government of the grand duchy during the second half of 18th century. The document, which is very rare, is particularly interesting because it describes, with great accuracy and richness of words, the whole range of street arts from which the equestrian circus, founded a few years before, in London in 1768, by Philip Astley (1742−1814), would have arisen. Similar shows, with the same roots and a strong theatrical identification, were established throughout Italy in the first half of the 19th century.

Last updated: July 3, 2014