The menagerie of the Amar brothers: the tamer Mustapha

The menagerie of the Amar brothers: the tamer Mustapha


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  • Menagerie of the Amar brothers, the tamer Mustapha and Pasha.

  • Menagerie of the Amar brothers, the tamer Mustapha.

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Title: Menagerie of the Amar brothers, the tamer Mustapha and Pasha.

Author :

Creation date : 1922

Date shown: 1922

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage place: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © MuCEM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / All rights reserved website

Picture reference: 09-537249 / Sou.4.99.2

Menagerie of the Amar brothers, the tamer Mustapha and Pasha.

© MuCEM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / All rights reserved

To close

Title: Menagerie of the Amar brothers, the tamer Mustapha.

Author :

Creation date : 1922

Date shown: 1922

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage place: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © MuCEM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / All rights reserved website

Picture reference: 09-537248 / Sou.4.98.2

Menagerie of the Amar brothers, the tamer Mustapha.

© MuCEM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / All rights reserved

Publication date: November 2010

Historical context

"Colonel" Mustapha or the birth of a legend

In the first years of the 20th century, Ahmed Ben Amar el-Gaid presented various numbers in France in which appeared lions, elephants, bears and trained tigers. The "Amar menagerie", which also participates in fairs, such as the one dedicated to Gingerbread which was held in Paris in 1909, gradually saw its notoriety increase. The younger Mustapha, nicknamed "the Colonel", was about twenty-five years old in 1922, when the photos were taken. Menagerie of Brothers Amar, the tamer Mustapha and Pasha and Menagerie of the Amar brothers, the tamer Mustapha. Famous for having been "the youngest tamer in the world" under the orders of his father, he distinguished himself from the beginning of the 1920s by his intrepidity and his exceptional numbers which earned the Amar menagerie national (and soon international) popularity without previous.

Like the acts of the clowns and acrobats, the feats of the tamers come from the fairground tradition rather than that of the circus, which initially offered only horse shows. Now integrated into more diverse performances, they have become, notably under the leadership of the Amar brothers, the most popular and characteristic attraction of circus shows, helping to change the image of the latter.

In this regard, The tamer Mustapha and Pasha and The tamer Mustapha testify to a growing artistic and documentary interest in the circus in general and for trainers in particular. More generally, this type of photography, more and more numerous, satisfies just as much as it fuels the public's growing taste for the circus, its actors and its evolution.

Image Analysis

Circus beast (s)

The two clichés The tamer Mustapha and Pasha and The tamer Mustapha were probably taken on the same day in 1922 by the same photographer: the cage, the protagonists, the composition, the staging and the desired effect are indeed very similar.

The tamer Mustapha and Pasha shows the younger Amar brothers "in action": balancing on two wooden stools, the tamer rides the young lion, which he holds firmly by his collar. The bars of the cage strongly structure the shot, taken from a slight low angle. The shallow depth of field focuses attention on the scene and thereby intensifies it. Effortlessly as evidenced by his stance, footwork and the two grips of his hands, he stares at the goal with a concentrated air.

The cliché The tamer Mustapha is even more striking: taken in close-up, the two protagonists engage in a kind of opposite movement that concentrates them in space. Putting his head in the lion's mouth (the same one, as the spots on the hind legs confirm) which he forcibly keeps open, Mustapha even begins to disappear there.

Interpretation

Mustapha: a hero between domination and transfiguration

In both cases, the artist has chosen to represent the tamer in the lion's cage, an obviously well-closed place. This staging thus delivers a very explicit message: Mustapha is at the heart of the danger. Even if he poses, he is not pretending: he is truly alone face with the lion, with no escape, no leeway and no special effects. As if the very essence of her person could not be defined outside of the risk-taking, the courage that this tete-a-tete with a beast requires. It then appears that these documentary-looking photographs are also intended to glorify the figure of the intrepid young "hero", rising star of the Amar menagerie. While arousing emotion and admiration, the clichés express the circus in a nutshell: the show, its people, their prowess and their values.

Another suggested theme, that of domination. The tamer Mustapha and Pasha leaves no room for doubt: the confident gaze of the tamer (who stands very straight), the firmness with which he holds the lion, the way he rides it on the two stools (a capacity which also recalls that the numbers of dressage also represent feats of balancing act, as the idea of ​​a “total” circus where the actors are complete says it the relationship of man to the savage and the ferocious disciplined, trained and dominated. This domination reaches its climax in The tamer Mustapha since putting your head in the lion's mouth (another famous act, in which Mustapha is in the process of becoming one of the specialists) implies great mastery of oneself and of the animal. But the image also says an inverted domination: it is the man who is "swallowed", who "disappears" and is canceled in the lion. The result is a sort of confusion between the two protagonists, because man and beast become one and form a hybrid being that is a little strange, monstrous, in any case fantastic. Their duality being abolished, the notion of domination is relativized, transcended by birth and transfiguration. An impression which suggests that the show is based on two equally necessary and inseparable actors.

We can then meditate on the fact that Mustapha and Pasha are housed in the same boat: both are behind bars (real for the lion, the deprivation of liberty is symbolic for man), exposed to view like curious animals. in their cage.

  • Amar brothers
  • circus

Bibliography

Pascal JACOB, The Great Circus Parade, Paris, Gallimard, 2001.Dominique JANDO World circus history, Paris, University Editions Jean-Pierre Delarge, 1977 François MIRALLES, History of circuses in T.A.M., n ° 220, 1946.North Africa illustrated, n ° 488, September 1930.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The menagerie of the Amar brothers: the tamer Mustapha"


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