Portraits of famous equestriennes


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Texts written by Pascal Jacob

Caroline Loyo

French equestrienne

(Born in 1816, in Bléré - 1887?)

Trained by François Baucher (1796-1875) and Jules-Charles Pellier (1800-1874) in the suburb of Saint Martin and by Laurent Franconi (1776-1849) at the Pecq Indoor School, Caroline Loyo presented her first horse at the age of 17 at the Cirque de Paris, which was run by Laurent Franconi, but her career really began at the Cirque Olympique in 1834. She is accredited for being the first equestrienne to ride a horse trained in Haute Ecole sidesaddle.  She trained her own horses which was a rare occurrence in the 19th century.  François Baucher and Caroline Loyo, each within their own specialist area, became the true founders of the Ecole Nouvelle d’Equitation (new school of thought for riding).  Caroline Loyo was athletic, strong and quite exacting and her five horses occasionally suffered from her unrelenting ways.  She used her whip liberally when correcting her horses, even in public, and retorted to Louis Dejean, the owner of the Cirque des Champs-Elysées and the Cirque Napoléon:  “I shall wear out any horse which defies me”. Dejean took her literally and entrusted her with a very difficult horse, Mahmoud, which she quickly mastered.

She wore formal sidesaddle attire (a riding habit and a top hat) or a military-style costume from the equestrian circus act "Les Dames Colonels", but Caroline Loyo also liked to wear a more individual outfit inspired by Greek folklore.  She met François Loisset at the Ernst Renz Circus in Berlin and, following a number of fiery romances, married him in 1852 at the Eglise Saint Roch at the age of 36. In 1854 they revived the Loisset Circus and travelled to Germany where they inflicted a major blow on their former boss, Ernest Renz, by presenting a sensational equestrian ballerina, Miss Ella (actually the horseman Omar Kingsley) in Berlin in the winter of 1855/56. François Loisset employed the poet Arthur Rimbaud as a cashier for a few months in Hamburg and in Copenhagen, who then left him in Stockholm at the end of 1877. François died of anthrax in 1878 following which Caroline sold the circus straight away and withdrew to Bléré in Touraine where heartache and financial problems lead to her early death, according to Captain H. Choppin the author of Les Origines de la cavalerie française (The Origins of French Cavalry), who came to visit her there in 1881. 

Elisa Petzold

Austrian equestrienne

(Born in Toeplitz in 1850? - ?)

Elisa Petzold, known as Elisa de Vienne, was born in a small Austrian town into a family of shopkeepers. She learned to ride with François Loisset and made her debut at Ernest Renz's Royal Circus in Berlin on the day of its opening on 29th November 1879. As part of Renz's company, she performed in all of Europe's greatest rings. She was welcomed as a rising star in Paris from her first appearance in 1867, sitting very straight on Convy, a small, powerful, balanced horse which demonstrated increasingly complex Haute-Ecole movements with perfectly regular steps and pace. Before becoming the director of the Hippodrome de l’Alma, Charles Zidler commissioned Jules Chéret to produce a lithography of Elisa which he distributed throughout the capital.She was very close to Elisabeth of Austria who gave her Lord Byron, a schooled horse but above all a very good jumper and probably represented in the painting by Edmond Grandjean. Her rivals, such as Emilie Loisset and Anna Fillis, performed endless exploits to avoid being overshadowed. Elisa continued in her chosen direction, forming a harmonious duo with her horse, appearing to defy any obstacles in their way. This dream was crushed when Lord Byron was poisoned, no doubt by her detractors. After marrying the Count of Blachère and whilst still young and at the height of her achievements, she left the circus and riding to live withdrawn from the world until she was over eighty years old. Like other great equestriennes of the 19th century, she inspired the era's poets, writers and painters and as such became the subject of Edmond Grandjean's (1844-1909) painting Ecuyère de Haute-école, (Haute – Ecole Equestrienne) and another of his paintings entitled Mademoiselle Elisa de Vienne (Miss Elisa of Vienna), displayed at the 1883 Exhibition. Alongside Emilie Loisset, she was also the inspiration behind the character Julia Forsell in L’Ecuyère (The Equestrienne), a book written by Alain Bauquesne. 

Emilie Loisset

French equestrienne

(Born in Paris in 1854 - Paris 1882)

Rosine Lagier collections

Born into a circus dynasty founded by Jean-Baptiste Loisset (1797-1878), who was married to Hélène Virginie Delinsky, Laurence Emilie Marcelle Roux, known as Emilie Loisset, was the daughter of Fortunée or Camille-Antoinette Loisset, an equestrienne, and Jean-Joseph Roux, an ice-cream maker established in the Rue Royale.  Emilie Roux Loisset and her sister, Clothilde, were bright pupils of riding master François Loisset, their uncle, and his wife Caroline Loyo.  In 1878 they were Victor Franconi's star equestriennes.  Emilie, the main equestrienne would lead nine others in the Hussards exercise and the female roles in a quadrille, the great equestrian creation with Anna Filllis, Oceana Renz and Virginie Léonard the last of the écuyères romantiques. Highly admired and very popular, Emilie asserted herself with determination abandoning the conventional, formal sidesaddle attire for a "bohemian" outfit. Writing for the Figaro newspaper on 26th April 1878, Mortier described her as "The Diva of riding".  Following a knee injury, she stopped performing the “panneau” (exercises performed while standing on horseback), moving on to Haute-Ecole where, very much in demand, she would only perform for Renz in Berlin and Franconi in Paris.  She was so famous that upon her return to the Cirque d’Eté in 1881, Victor Franconi organised a dinner and a ball in her honour.  Following Clothide's marriage in 1879 to Prince Jean de Reuss who became Baron of Reichenfeld, Emilie reacted by having her crop engraved with her version of the motto of the sires of Councy "Reine ne puis, Princesse ne daigne, Loisset suis" (I can’t be Queen, I do not deign to be a Princess, I will be a Loisset").  Nevertheless, she got engaged to the Prince of Hastfeld whom she met in Berlin.  The wedding was planned for early 1882, at the end of the Champs-Elysées circus season.  However, in the end it was cancelled and Emilie, alone again, found refuge in rehearsing her new exploits. After her last performance in Berlin, she brought back two "jumpers", named "J'y pense" (It's in my mind) and "Pour toujours" (For ever). The latter, a restive, Irish horse, had already made her fall in 1881 in Berlin, by jumping over a table of candelabras. Despite advice from Charles Franconi, the director of the Cirque d’Hiver, she refused to part with it. On 15th April 1882, while rehearsing for a piece she wanted to perform at the Cirque d’Eté, her horse had a run out, and following a whipping from the equestrienne which made it go crazy, it sped off behind-the-scenes. It slid and fell at the closed door of the stables, falling on top of her. She was hit in the abdomen by the saddle horn and, after two days in agony, died whilst humming the music for entrance: La Valse des gardes (The Guards' Waltz). Her funeral, on 19th April, was her final accolade. Crowds accompanied her coffin to Maisons-Lafitte Cemetery where she was laid to rest in the Loisset family vault. There are no longer any Loissets in the ring today.

Blanche Allarti - Rosine Lagier collections

Texts written by Pascal Jacob, a major circus arts collector and enthusiast and the author of many works dedicated to the history of the circus and its disciplines.