Title: Cirque Molier. Scrapbook assembled by Raoul de Frechencourt, Secrétaire-Général of the Circus.
Seller ID: 37694
Comprising a copy of Cirque Molier 1880 – 1904, by Ernest Molier. Paris: Paul Dupont, 1904. 4to. pp. 199, ; illustrations. Presentation copy inscribed on the end paper « A mon excellent Collaborateur [---?] Raoul de Frechencourt. Bien affectueux souvenir E. Molier. » Retaining the original wrappers but loose in a larger album with bound in at the rear an extensive archive of programmes, photographs, admission cards, ephemera, articles etc. The end paper bears the library label of Bibliothèque de Frechencourt. Contemporary half morocco, disbound and many sections loose. An unparalleled archive with an impeccable provenance, this contains an extensive collection of material dating from the establishment of Cirque Molier in 1880, up to 1914. It is likely that the Circus went into a hiatus during the Great War, restarting after the war, finally closing in 1934 following the death of Molier. Included is a virtually unbroken sequence of 42 programmes and handbills from 1880 – 1914; 15 detailed reviews and articles, a couple signed by Molier; approximately 30 cards and invitations, some signed, two with long notes by Molier; over 30 original photographs of the circus including camels, dressage, tableaux vivants, etc. [includes one with a nude trial tableau]; a number of menus for the dinners which took place after the performances; a fantasy original watercolour showing Molier levitating above two horses, one ridden by a young girl, the other by a wolf. Cirque Molier [1880 – 1934] was the first amateur [private] circus in the world, established by Ernest Molier, producing a charity gala once a year at his home, Hotel Molier on the rue de Bénouville in Paris. His performers came from the highest echelons of French society, with aristocracy and gentry amongst their number. Initially his performances consisted of typical circus acts including clowns, dressage of horses, feats of strength and acrobats, but he became more adventurous and later introduced camels, tableaux, playlets, old-time fencing in the form of vignettes, etc. This circus was a privately owned circus, a “cirque mondain” put at the disposal of amateurs, usually friends and acquaintances of Molier who vied for the honour of performing not only haute école or equine acrobatics, but also other circus acts. The Cirque Molier was situated in the Rue Bénouville, right next to the Bois de Boulogne and formed part of Molier’s hotel particulier. The circus had an excellent ring and a large hall to seat the spectators. The opening night occurred on 21st March 1880. Friends, relatives, and acquaintances were invited. The invitation read: “We will do a little equitation, a little acrobatics and then we will eat tripe à la Bénouville.” The seats were not the most comfortable, but Molier had tried to make the atmosphere more festive by creating a Spanish motif. Present were the upper bourgeoisie and aristocracy of the horse world: le Prince de Sagan, le Prince de Chenay, le Baron d’Orgeval, le Duc de Morny, le Comte d’Osmond, etc. To enliven the evening, professional écuyères such as Fanny Lehmann, a delicate rider, yet energetic, always in harmony with her horse, known as the Sarah Bernhardt of equitation, and a few others, were asked to participate. The actress Alice Lavigne was also included among the amateurs of the Cirque Molier. Men such as le Comte de Beauregard and le Comte de Maulde performed equestrian acts; le Comte Hubert de la Rochefoucauld and others performed at the trapeze and the fixed bar. The evening was so successful that it was agreed that there would be a repeat performance the following year. Indeed, each year the Cirque Molier gave its annual spectacle until 1933. To these yearly performances Le Tout-Paris came. Even the demi-monde, and the horizontales de grande marque were received. While a certain amount of frivolity animated these evenings, the enthusiasm of the members of high society, and the enthusiasm and skill engendered by Molier himself, gave the Cirque Molier a special animation and cachet. The original ideas and the talent that came to the fore, gave the Cirque Molier a certain stamp of distinction. Even Molier’s acrobats, jugglers and clowns came from Le Tout-Paris. They were mostly amateurs, performing their acts for fun and doing them well, capable of competing with the professional écuyers and écuyères, acrobats, and clowns. The women also came from Le Tout-Paris, those who wanted to perform and show off their skills as horsewomen, as did many of the écuyères performing in the circus on a professional basis. Molier was in no way in awe of those titled amateur performers. They, too, were given broom and shovel with which to pick up manure.