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Posters of equestrian shows at the end of the 18th c.
Philip Astley, Charles Hughes and Sieur Hyam

Posters for shows are rare because they are by definition ephemeral productions. In the 18th century, advertising placards were engravings printed in a limited number of copies, before the invention of  lithography in 1796 made it possible to lower production costs and multiply extensively the production. "Placarded", glued, on the walls posters disappear, replaced by the following ones. Therefore finding ancient posters, moreover in good condition, is a chance, especially when they echo each other...  


The three posters for the horse shows of Philip Astley and Charles Hughes in London and that of Sieur Hyam in Paris all date from the 1770s. Astley's is dated 1776. That of Hughes, regarding the similarity of the program is presumably from the same year. That of Sieur Hyam, dates from 1774 when he temporarily moved to the Jardin des Porcherons (also known as La Folie Boutin or Grand Tivoli), in the current 9th arrondissement in Paris, where Ruggieri presented his fireworks tricks before the Revolution.

Studying these three posters lets us get a grasp of the details of the programming of the first show riders. As one can see, these posters were indeed program posters where the text fills the page much more then images describing precisely the content of the spectacle. The header thumbnails represent one or several typical exercises. Note, in particular, that Astley and Hughes' both represent the performance of the rider balanced on the head, firing a pistol with his mount at a gallop...and that these vignettes are the same one can find in their books.

Not only these posters show us the use of printing aterial, the means ofimitating - not to say copying - competitors and postures as well as costumes show us typical military exercices which were the main component of the firts equestrian shows.

On the competition and race for imitation between Astley and Hughes see Du Théâtre équestre au Cirque , p. 54 and sq.

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