Codonas, Austrian poster by Berthold Richter, ca. 1935

Codonas, Austrian poster by Berthold Richter, ca. 1932

The poster above depicts Alfredo Codona (October 7, 1893 – July 30, 1937), the greatest flying trapeze artist of his time, bathed in the spotlights of the Big Top and preparing to take flight from the trapeze board. Codona was circus royalty during the golden age of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, where he performed in an act with his brother Lalo and other family members.

Alfredo Codona and Vera Bruce-Codona, from

Alfredo Codona and Vera Bruce-Codona, photo from “Flying High” was used for the above poster, ca. 1932 (1)

In 1928 Codona married Lillian Leitzel (January 2, 1892 – February 15, 1931), the diminutive aerialist whose fame perhaps exceeded that of Codona himself.  The two were Ringling circus headliners, and their wedding was an event equivalent to that of two rock stars today.  Although their marriage was tempestuous, Lillian was Codona’s only true love, as subsequent events made clear.

The Passing Leap

The Passing Leap (2)

While performing her aerial act in Copenhagen on February 13, 1931, Leitzel’s metal ring snapped and she fell to the ground, suffering fatal injuries. Alfredo rushed to Copenhagen from Berlin to be with her.  She died two days later on February 15, and was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.

Graves of two circus aerialists, Lillian Leitzel and Alfredo Codona

Graves of two circus aerialists, Lillian Leitzel and Alfredo Codona at the Inglewood Cemetery (3)


Codona married Vera Bruce, a member of the trapeze act, in 1932.  She is standing on the board behind Codona in the poster depicted here.  However, Codona’s performance declined after Leitzel’s death, and he suffered an injury in an accident in 1933 as well.  Unable to perform aerial acts, he retired from the trapeze in 1934, and his marriage to Vera deteriorated.  While involved in discussion of their property settlement during divorce proceedings, he shot Vera to death in her lawyer’s office, and then took his own life.  At his request he was buried beside Leitzel’s grave in Inglewood Park Cemetery, beneath a monumental memorial depicting her ascent to heaven on wings.

The poster “Codonas” is an Austrian three-sheet for the film “Flying High” from the early 1930s. The poster is part of our vintage poster sale on October 25, 2014.


We want to thank Victor R. for contributing this article to our blog. Victor is a friend and poster collector with an interest in trapeze poster art.

Photo credits:

(1) photo from and Circus World/Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center –

(2) (3) photos from

October 22, 2014