Don Jose Manoel

Don Jose Manoel

A carte-de-visite portrait of the Brazilian wire walker, juggler and balancer known professionally as Don Jose Manoel, who thrilled British audiences during the 1860s and 1870s. When he appeared in Liverpool in 1864 a local reviewer reported that he ‘preserves his equilibrium on a slack wire no thicker than a goose quill, in all imaginary positions, and under wonderful combinations of difficulties’. According to another report: ‘He balances a sword on the edge of a drinking glass, which rests upon a sort of pipe inserted in his mouth, and at the top of the sword a revolving bowl. After this he whirls a similar bowl upon a multi-coloured stick, which he cleverly balances, and while doing so goes through more feats of jugglery, amid which fireworks contained in the bowl ignite and envelop the performer in a shower of fire similar to a monster Catherine wheel’. When he appeared in Edinburgh in 1865, The Scotsman reported that: ‘Don Jose’s performance is at once novel and clever. A wire-rope, about half-an-inch in circumference, is suspended loosely from two poles, and this Don Jose walks without the aid of a balancing-pole. Standing upon one foot on the wire, he performs a large number of new juggling feats and concludes by balancing a pole on which a number of fireworks revolve, the fire falling in a shower around him. Don Jose was very enthusiastically received and afterwards twice called into the arena.’

Don Jose Manoel married in London in 1863. He died there, aged 45, on 14 April 1881.

Photographed by Disdéri of Paris.

A pencilled inscription verso in a period hand identifies the sitter. His name also appears under ‘artistes dramatiques’ in Disdéri’s fifth catalogue, issued on 15 March 1861, which gives that added information that he performed at the ‘Cirque,’ presumably the Cirque Napoléon, now the Cirque d’Hiver.


Code: 122036
© Paul Frecker 2023