Acrobates au cirque Fernando (1879)

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste (1841-1919)

Acrobates au cirque Fernando (Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando)
Oil on canvas, 131.2 × 99.2 cm
Art Institute of ChicagoChicago

The two little circus girls in this painting are Francisca and Angelina Wartenberg, who performed as acrobats in the famed Cirque Fernando in Paris. Although they were depicted in the center of a circus ring, the sisters actually posed in costume in Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s studio, enabling him to paint them in daylight. Here he portrayed them just as they have finished their act and are taking their bows. One sister turns to the crowd, acknowledging its approval, while the other faces the viewer with an armful of oranges, a rare treat that the audience has tossed in tribute. Although Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando reflects the artist’s enchantment with the innocence of childhood—he has enveloped the girls in a virtual halo of pinks, oranges, yellows, and whites—the partially visible, darkly clothed (mainly male) spectators allude to the less wholesome, nocturnal demimonde of the nineteenth-century circus in which these two young performers grew up. The famed Chicago collector Mrs. Potter Palmer purchased Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando in 1892 and was so enamored of the picture that she kept it with her at all times, even on her travels abroad. (AIC)


Degas, Edgar (1834-1917)
Miss La La au Cirque Fernando
National GalleryLondon



Degas, Edgar (1834-1917)
Miss Lala au Cirque Fernando
Tate BritainLondon



Seurat, Georges (1859-1891)
Le Cirque
Musée d’OrsayParis



Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de (1864-1901)
Au Cirque Fernando: L’Écuyère
Art Institute of ChicagoChicago



See also:

• Montmartre | Paris (France)