Some excellent detective work by Ghoul Next Door has uncovered the origins of this 101-year-old photo. The stunning image was brought to our attention by guest blogger Angeliska, who writes, “I’ve become totally obsessed with this carte de visite depicting Maria Germanova of the Moscow Arts Theatre, costumed for her role [as the fairy] in Blue Bird. She is my perfect style icon, now and forever.”
Unfortunately, the photographs of the actors are all that remain of this 1908 premiere of Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird, produced by Stanislavsky. A descriptive play-by-play of the performance can be found in the 1920 book The Russian Theater Under the Revolution by Oliver Sayler (thanks, Google book search!), but all other images of this art noveau-inspired production have been lost to time, despite Sayler’s valiant attempts to preserve more for posterity, recounted in the book:
I asked Stanislavsky eagerly for photographs of scenes from “The Blue Bird” or else for the original designs of the scenic artist so that I might have them copied… the photographs, I was told, were not available – except those of the players themselves – for the originals had been made by Fischer, a German, and had been destroyed in the pogrom at the beginning of the war in 1914. And in the difficult times Russia has undergone since then, no others have been made. When I pressed my point and asked about the orignal designs, the firm, square but kindly face of my host carried a passing glance of embarassed modesty and then admitted that there were no designs. He had conceived them himself and had personally directed the artist, V. E. Yevgenoff, in the execution of the settings.
Yep, 1908 is definitely going to the top of my “If I Had a Time Machine” list. Craving more images after discovering Germanova’s fairy, I did a bit of searching on the Russian web and uncovered the images below (from an Ogonyok article about Blue Bird). After the jump, a full-body shot of Germanova looking like a pre-Raphaelite sorceress.