Grand Extraordinary Surprising Spectacle


This poster, dated 1835 and printed by the firm of Andreola in Treviso, Italy, advertises a show by the Acrobatic, Athletic, and Olympic Company, one of the last touring companies that performed in theaters in what was known as an acrobatic “cultured” repertoire show. Such shows combined dance and pantomime, with artists playing specific roles. Popular throughout the 18th century, the shows were no longer in vogue by this period.  Over time, the acrobatic artists, such as Pietro Bono, the tightrope walker featured in this poster, were incorporated into the increasingly popular equestrian circuses. This poster is of particular interest because it bears the red wax seal granting authorization to perform in Conegliano (Treviso) and also mentions Lepido Pagliaccio, a performer from the commedia dell'arte who is considered a precursor to the Anglo-Saxon clown that was incorporated into the equestrian circus during this period. Bono, better known as Il Diavoletto ("the little devil"), was the son of Giovanni Battista Bono, the director of the company, and the first dancer of the acrobatic school in Paris. He learned his craft in the company of Marco Averino, with which he worked as a tightrope walker. Bono’s partner was Bartolomeo Zanfretta, who in this poster is listed as playing the roles of Alcide and Piramidista. In May 1839, Zanfretta performed with his own company in the arena of Verona, presenting a show of "athletic and gymnastic strength.”

Last updated: March 5, 2014