The Ravel Family were a four generation clan of French circus/ variety performers. The progenitor was Gabriel the father, but the family troupe appears to have originally been founded and lead by his son Jean. The core of the troupe consisted of Jean’s children Gabriel (1810-1882), Antoine (1812-1872), Angelique (1813-1895), Jerome (1814-1890) and Francoise (1823-1881). The troupe was then supplemented by many other non-family members, the most famous of whom was Blondin, the man who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Another famous member of the troupe was Leon Javelli (pictured above), who headlined with them at Niblo’s Garden.
Trained in Italy and based out of Paris, the family toured all the major countries of Europe, as well as America starting in 1825, and throughout the next four decades. Their large production consisted of pantomime, ballet, tumbling, wirewalking and balancing. Gabriel the younger headed the act after Jean retired. When the original troupe had faded from the scene, Angelique’s children Charles (a clown), and Marietta (who joined the Hanlon family) were stars of late 19th century variety.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.