Lost Marvels of Revolution-Era Russian Theater

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.

Balsam Honey

Well, not really! I’ve been hard at work and doing a lot of thinking, my friends-
and so I do apologize for the quiet. Exciting things are soon to be revealed!
The season is turning, and in these liminal states we find hidden knowledge.
My dreams are getting wild again- are yours? What’s the latest from dreamland?

I can’t recall where I found this now, but I remember being shocked and delighted
to stumble upon it! Someone liked my kookla costume, and decided to sketch it…
But who? Was it you? Do tell. It’s like going through the looking glass, to find such a thing!

Thanks to Miss Ghoul Next Door, I’ve become totally obsessed with this carte de visite
depicting Maria Germanova of the Moscow Arts Theatre, costumed for her role
in Bluebird of Happiness. She is my perfect style icon, now and forever.

10 Responses to “Lost Marvels of Revolution-Era Russian Theater”

  1. Fausty Says:

    A somewhat similar genre find that has been fascinating me lately: Soviet era moral/political books, recently rediscovered and scanned:


    Fausty | http://www.cultureghost.org

  2. annie Says:

    i saw that image on the most perfect angeliska’s site last night + nearly fell out of my chair. i would give my right eye and at least a couple of teeth to travel back in time and sit in the audience of blue bird.

    (funnily, i was just working on a photo this week that i was considering titling “blue bird of happiness”. tiny worlds.)

  3. ghoul next door Says:

    Holy Jeez! This was the last thing I expected to see when I ran through all my bookmarked “weird” blogs this morning! I feel I would be remiss in mentioning that I came across the lovely image of Maria Germanova (name unknown to me at the time) when I was tooling around netflix and came across an individual with tastes very similar to mine; she was using a cropped version of the above as an icon, and I have been obsessed with finding the original ever since. As an aside this individual has an an exhaustive repertoire of film reviews, many of which I am sure would be of interest to Coilhouse readers, because they are just “those kinds of movies”. Of course I mean that in the best and most flattering way.

    Oh! I found this 1909 playbill design by artist Frederick Cayley Robinson for The Bluebird a few days ago – lovely, eh? http://ghoulnextdoor.tumblr.com/post/202705074

  4. Tequila Says:

    Oh wow, these are some beautiful costumes. Would have loved to see them on stage in all their eye pleasing glory. The first and last images are transfixing but I’m partial to the middle four…would love to live in a world were that was part of the everyday world.

    Great find!

  5. Miguel Gonzalez Says:

    Eeriely beautiful.

  6. choklit Says:

    *sigh* I could stare at images like this all day. Already plotting… just how can I construct a headdress like that?

  7. The Germanova Saga « Ghosts in the garden & fairy tales from the shadows Says:

    […] correspondent Angeliska Polachek and part of a “lost marvels of the Russian Revolution” article.   Since then I had carefully compiled a great deal of research and supplemental data and then […]

  8. Tertiary Says:

    Turn of the century ballet had the most amazing costumes.

  9. Lydia Says:

    Does anyone know who designed and made that costume for The Blue Bird?

  10. christian brechneff Says:

    maria germanova was my grandmotherts half sister. a writer in moskau just finished a book about her – irina korchevn. i have her e-mail if you speak russian or german she can answer you. may be even in english
    [email protected]