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Grimaldi, Joseph, 1778 - 1837



  • Existence: 1778 - 1837


Joseph Grimaldi was born in Clare Market, London in 1778. Although by now settled in England, Joseph came from a long line of performers of Italian origin. Joseph’s father, Joseph Guiseppe Grimaldi, was an actor, dancer and the Ballet Master at the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane, dubbed ‘The Signeur’.

Joseph first appeared on stage with his father at Drury Lane Theatre when he was only two years old in harlequinades. Harlequinades came from the Italian tradition of Commedia del’Arte, which was very popular at the time. Harlequinades were very physically demanding plays, which as well as acting and comedy skills required a high level of physical agility to perform tumbling, acrobatics and even juggling acts.

Joseph excelled in his role, which progressively increased in prominence and by the time he was six years old, he started to get his own small clown character pieces. By the turn of the nineteenth century Joseph was one of the most famous clowns in Britain and was giving several performances per night, which took a toll on his health. By the time Joseph reached forty eight years of age he was burnt out both physically and mentally.

Joseph retired in 1828, aged fifty, after spending forty eight years on stage, his last performance was at the Drury Lane Theatre where everything had started.

Joseph died in his home in Islington in 1837. His influence in modern clowning and the development of this performance art is such that clowns from around the world gather every 31st May in London at a religious service and lay flowers on his grave. Joseph is one of the most iconic clowns of all times and is widely considered the father of modern clowning. The term Joey is used as a generic way to refer to clowns in the circus world.

Found in 13 Collections and/or Records:

Bertram Mills Circus Gala Performance for Jewish Child's Day Programme, 21 December 1953

Reference code: 178K43.587
Scope and Contents

Three colour illustrations of Grimaldi the clown on the front cover over a white background, inside introduction, loose programme, some articles and commercial advertising. Printed by Woburn Printing Co, Ltd, Upper Woburn Place, 4p.p.

Dates: 21 December 1953

Bertram Mills Circus Royal and Gala Performance Programmes, Great Carmo, Bostock and Wombwell's, and Bailey's Circus Programmes, c1900 - 1999

Reference code: 178K43.586-609
Scope and Contents

Bertram Mills Circus Royal and Gala Performance programmes, Great Carmo's Circus, Bostock and Wombwell's menagerie and Bailey's Circus programmes.

Dates: c1900 - 1999

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Cyril Critchlow Collection

Reference code: NFA0089
Scope and Contents The Cyril Critchlow collection contains programmes, posters, handbills, books and magic journals, many of which relate to shows in Blackpool where Cyril resided and includes material on entertainment venues such as Blackpool’s North Pier, Central Pier, South Pier, Tower Circus and a small collection of programmes from other national venues. Additionally, it contains circus photographs and postcards mainly of the Ohmy Circus and Sanger Circus including individual circus troupes and performers...
Dates: c1837 - 2008

Durrant's Press Cuttings, 1930 - 1955

Reference code: 178G21.98
Scope and Contents A collection of newspaper cuttings of circus articles mostly provided by Durrant's Press Cuttings from a range of sources including; North Mail and Newcastle Chronicle, News Chronicle, Cork Examiner, Empire News, Midland Daily Telegraph, Sunday Dispatch, Pearson's Weekly, Nottingham Evening Post, The Listener and other mainstream newspapers on a range of topics including Bertram Mills, wild animals, Pricilla Kayes, Koringa, The Hagenbecks, Blondin, Paulo Circus family, Togare, Grimaldi,...
Dates: 1930 - 1955

Mr Grimaldi Print, 11 October 1820

Reference code: 178V11.15
Scope and Contents

Lithograph on paper by Wageman, printed by Blood and published by Mr. Charles Westmacott. Black and white illustration of bust portrait of man in suit.

Dates: 11 October 1820

Original Artwork, c1800 - 2000

Reference code: 178V11
Scope and Contents

Original works of art including artists' prints, drawings, watercolours and paintings, and designs for circus posters.

Dates: c1800 - 2000

Posters, c1800 - 2011

Reference code: 178R47
Scope and Contents

A wide range of British and international circus and menagerie posters ranging from the 19th to the 21st century including Astley's Amphitheatre, Pablo Fanque, Polito, Bostock and Wombwell, Ducrow, Cooke, Hengler, Sanger, Smart, Gerry Cottle, Bertram Mills, Chipperfield's, Robert Brothers, Fossett, Blackpool Tower, Billy Russell, Belle Vue, Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, Austen Brothers and many more.

Dates: c1800 - 2011

Programmes, c1800 - 2019

Reference code: 178K43
Scope and Contents

A collection of mainly British and international circus programmes and some variety and music hall programmes containing circus acts.

Dates: c1800 - 2019

Sketch, 1837 original

Reference code: 178Z28.12
Scope and Contents

Colour Sketch of Grimaldi the clown. Published by Dyer Senr, 109 Aldersgate Street.

Dates: 1837 original

Theatre Royal Poster, 5 June 1816

Reference code: 178R47.42
Scope and Contents Mr. Conway's Night, Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Mr. Egerton, Mr. Tokely, Mr. Liston, Mr. Duruset, Mr. Bellamy, Master C. Parsloe, Mr. Young, Mr. jefferies, Mr. Murray, Mr. Chapman, Mr. Fawcett, Miss Logan, Mrs. Egerton, Miss Matthews, Mrs. H. Johnston in The Exile, Mr. Matthews in Mrs. Wiggings, Mr. Sinclair and Miss Stephens, Mr. Grimaldi and Mr. Ellar in Mother Goose, Mr. Conway, Mr. Bellamy, Mr. Claremont, Mr. W. Chapman, Mr. Simmons, Mr. Treby, Mr. H. Well, Mr. Menage, Mr. Grant, Mr....
Dates: 5 June 1816

Various Items Related to Variety, c1837 - 2008

Reference code: 178Z28
Scope and Contents

Various items related to variety theatre in Blackpool and other locations.

Dates: c1837 - 2008

Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian Circus Posters, c1800 - 1930

Reference code: 178R47.1-51
Scope and Contents

Early circus and menagerie posters including Polito's menagerie, Astley's Amphitheatre and Pablo Fanque's, Sanger's, Powell's, Ducrow's, Cooke's and Hengler's circuses among others.

Dates: c1800 - 1930

Additional filters:

Archival Object 11
Collection 2
Acrobats 6
Aerialists 8
Animal trainers 7
Animals 8
Art 1