Thursday 31 December 2015

Pulgas Vestidas for Sale

In my research into trained fleas, I came across Painted Fleas or Pulgas Vestidas, I've quizzed a few experts on why they are made. The natural history museum passed on the following article that was first published in an edition of Flea News by Frans Smit from the Rothschild Zoological Museum at Tring.

Just a small point - the fleas themselves are not actually dressed, they form only the head of the tiny figures. They are amazingly detailed considering they are hand-made, probably without much magnification and best appreciated under a microscope. Tring has the peasant couple (2 fleas) and the NHM (not on display) two bridal couples accompanied by a 6-piece Mariachi band (10 fleas). None are more than a 5mm tall.

In 1910 the Hon. N. Charles Rothschild was offered a fine collection of fleas from Mexico - in those days quite a terra incognita as regards these insects. To his intense disappointment (but surely to NCR's amusement) the collection proved to consist of twelve dressed fleas, known as pulgas vestidas. They consisted of two "peasants", a man carrying wood and a woman with a basket which form one of the more popular exhibits in the public galleries at Tring Museum. The other is a set piece comprising two brides and bridegrooms with a Mexican band that now reside in the Entomological collections of the British Museum (Natural History) in London.

This week I received an email telling me about big collection (pun not intended) of these fleas, 12 in total on sale on the Canadian Ebay.

Rare Vintage Pulgas Vestidas Dressed Fleas Mexican Folk Art Bulk 12 Pack Lot

Each box is 2 match heads high by 3 match heads wide. Each doll's head is a flea, and each color of material is a different material. there are 2 different displays. All photographs and microscope images are from actual items on auction. Photograph with Canadian $2.00 coin for scale.
A) Bride and Groom (x 7) Each groom in a Tux, each Bride in veil, and has a bouquictttureet
B) Farmer and wife 1 (x 5, Pink clothes) male dressed with sombrero, and carrying a bail of wood, and female in Mexican traditional head dress.
D) Bulk packaging (outer packaging for 12 pack (7x bride and grooms, 5x pink farmer and wife) Scribe on side of box Indios (in Spanish meaning Indians – to the best of my ability). The outer package is in good to poor condition, but has protected the 12 inner displays, to a pristine quality.

As with everything in the flea circus world the history of Pulgas Vestidas is wrapped in flamboyant stories with suggestions that these were made by nuns or monks being common. The sets nearly always seem to be related to marriages so perhaps there is a religious connection. The seller does have evidence that dates the items back to 1920s so we can be fairly sure these items are pretty old.

Friday 30 January 2015

Fleas on TV

The flea circus episode of 'David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities' is going to be aired on Watch TV on Monday (2nd Feb) at 9pm.

Watch is available on satellite and cable services

Tuesday 9 December 2014

David Attenborough's Natural Curiousities

Svenson's Flea Circus have teamed up with Sir David Attenborough for his new series of "David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities".

The episode highlights jumping feats in the natural world. David wanted a real flea circus to feature so Svensons were brought in to harness and train the fleas for the programme.

The fleas were selected from candidates from the local vet, only about 1 in 10 were good enough to perform. Eric and son Sven harnessed the fleas using a traditional technique of a wire neck collar.

"We do it all by hand without the use of ice, ether, or any other cheat" said Eric. Sven does it by eye but Eric does use a magnifying glass. They don't use tweezers as those tend to harm the fleas.

The fleas were hooked up to chariots, either singly or in pairs and performed well for the cameras.

The program will be on the 'Watch' channel very late this year or early in 2015 (Sky channel 109, Virgin 124), "David Attenboroughs Natural Curiosities - Series 3"

Svenson's Flea Circus

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Fleas die in the cold

Many thanks to everyone who's sent me the link the story about the poor fleas who died in the cold weather in Germany. The weather in Mechernich-Kommern has been dropping to -3°C over night and despite having the protection of a styrofoam container the 300 fleas died. Robert Birk the flea circus director who performs at the Oktober Fest managed to retrieve more fleas from the University of Dusseldorf and hence the show at the Faire of Yester-year Freilichtmuseum in Mechernich-Kommern could go on.

The flea circus library is investigating to ensure such disasters do not happen again.

Monday 15 October 2012

Heinrich Künstler - Nürenberg

Last week I was chatting on the emails with Janus Clausen, Curator of the Cirkusmuseet in Denmark. He advised me of a new name for flea circus history, "German Mecanicus called Heinrich Künstler from Sachsen". I quickly found in google books the following newspaper article.

Nurnberger Zeitung 121 from Montag 1 Mai 1843

Transalation thanks to Justin


With authoritarian permission

Heinrich Kuenstler from Saxony arrived here on his journey with a unique curiosity that has never been seen before.

He'll be in town for a few days to present it to a honorable audience for their viewing pleasure in the "Guesthouse under Moonshine" in the Gostenhof, No. 11, one stairway up.

You'll see:

An extraordinary cabinet that consists of 160 trained fleas.

Among many shows these will also be performed:

1.) An English touring car pulled by 6 fleas.

2.) A Russian chaise pulled by 2 fleas.

3.) Two fleas pulling a barrel.

4.) One flea pulling an Italian chaise.

5.) A flea fires a cannon as a cannoneer at last. Additionally it is shown that the fleas are lying in silver chains.

The cost of entry is 12 fr., children pay half.

The fleas can be seen daily from 10-12 before noon and 2-7 in the afternoon.

If somebody doesn't find everything as advertised he'll get his entrance fee back.

Thursday 27 September 2012

3 day festival of circus in Israel

Next week sees a festival of circus in Israel. Modi'in near Jerusalem is host to three days of circus fun and entertainment.

Kirkas Minimax will be performing with tricks such as a high jump, tightrope and trebuchet.

Friday 3 February 2012

Curious Pursuits

The flea chariot made it safely up to Manchester in time for the opening night of the Curious Pursuits exhibition by Porter and Jenkinson set in the delightful Portico Library and Gallery.

The exhibition runs till the end of February at The Portico Library & Gallery, 55 Mosley St, Manchester, Greater Manchester M2 3HY, UK

Photos by Keith Clark