Exhibit in detail: musical picture with a masquerade ball scene

Today, on the eve of the Russian Old New Year, musical picture automaton, created in Switzerland in the last quarter of the 20th century is presented under the heading "Exhibit in detail". The automaton is a diorama depicting a scene of a masquerade ball. Two curly metal cranks for winding the mechanism are on the right lateral side, activating knob is between them. Metal rod with goldish onlay in the form of the sun is on the upper panel, two figures in the masks are on the sides, a figure playing the drum is on the left hand side, a character playing the trumpet is on the right hand side. The diorama is pasted over with paper depicting a ballroom with curtains, vases, lamps and columns on the sides. The floor is finished with walnut veneer. A chandelier with three flower-shaped lampshades, decorated with beads is on the ceiling. All dolls are dressed in bright character clothes, with masks painted on their faces. When the mechanism is winded and activated, the sun is moving on the upper surface of the frame, the figures on the sides imitate playing musical instruments, and the dolls on the stage simulate theatrical performance. Pinned metal cylinder plays several fragments from the musical "The Phantom of the Opera" by Andrew Lloyd Webber1).

A brief history of carnivals and masquerades in Russia

Fancy-dress balls, like many other European entertainments, appeared in Russia under Peter I. The first street masquerade took place in St. Petersburg in 1721 -- though not on the New year eve, hence on the Northern War conclusion. The Emperor himself drew up the rules for carnivals, and sometimes he wrote the scripts for the festivities.

Only those that were on the inside in the Emperor Court could take part in those masquerades; others were only allowed in as spectators. The participants in the processions were divided into groups, each with one central figure - usually a Roman deity such as Bacchus, Neptune or Faunus. The grandiose spectacle could last a whole week, and it was forbidden to take off the costumes and withdraw from scenic images.

During the Moscow carnival in January 1722, held on the occasion of the Peace of Nystad2) conclusion, sixty sledges and horse-drawn carriages, decorated as sailing ships, gallivats and Turkish feluccas3), drove through the streets. Under Elizaveta Petrovna, masquerades were called metamorphoses, that is, transformations. Women dressed for such events in men's suits - camisoles and pantaloons, and men had to be laced up in corsets.

Under Catherine II, fancy-dress parties were held on the New Year eve. The courtiers were dressed in the comedy Del arte style costumes, or comedy of masks heroes - Harlequin, Pierrot and Columbine.

All balls were usually themed. For example, in the 1820s and 1830s, when the Gothic style came into fashion, men often dressed up as medieval knights, and women disguised themselves as nuns or copied the French Queens’ dresses.

In the 18th century, everything that revolved around Chinese style came to fashion in the Russian Empire. The Celestial Empire culture also influenced fancy dresses. Thus, in February 1837, a large "Chinese" ball was held in the Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg. Emperor Nicholas I attended it dressed as Chinese governor-mandarin. Most of the costumes for this masquerade were created at the Imperial Theaters’ workshops.

In the 1870s, costume balls were dedicated to Ancient Egypt. The heyday of the Egyptian style in Russia fell on the first and second decades of the 19th century. Fifty years later, it was recollected again thanks to the opera Aida by composer Giuseppe Verdi, which was staged in Memphis and Thebes. Ladies came to masquerades in tunics of white silk and gold brocade, tailors made mantle collars embroidered with bugles and elaborate headdresses that Nefertiti herself would envy.

In the 19th century, winter festive balls were usually held from the late December to Maslenitsa festival. Participants carefully prepared for masquerades; all costumes were ordered from the best tailors and artists.

In the second half of the 19th century, carnivals transferred guests to the Baroque era. Women ordered Infant dresses, copying those on the portraits by Diego Velazquez, and costumes in the style of Mary Stuart - with puffy sleeves and large collars. Antique themed balls became fashionable; the guests there were dressed in tunics and sandals in the ancient Greek manner.

Under Emperor Alexander III, historical balls in the Russian style became popular. In the folk dress store on Gorokhovaya Street in St. Petersburg, anyone could purchase a Kaluzhanka costume - an embroidered Russian shirt, a silk skirt with embroidered apron, green velvet sleeveless jacket trimmed with fur, as well as the red saffian leather boots, especially for the a la russe ball.

Nicholas II organized another grandiose New Year event in the Russian style in 1903. The theme was the reign of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich - the emperor himself performed this role in the caftan made of gold brocade and in royal cap. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was dressed as Tsaritsa Maria Ilyinichna. All musicians in the orchestra wore ancient Russian costumes.

At the turn of the 19th - 20th centuries, thanks to the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway, the high society interest in oriental motives rekindled. Women of fashion converted Chinese hieroglyphs and ornaments on silk fabric, bought authentic fans. The Russian Seasons by Sergei Diaghilev also fueled the interest in everything oriental.

Until the outbreak of the First World War, peculiar masquerade costumes were popular as well. People dressed up as calendars, school desks, magazine sheets and even snow drifts - the last image took a lot of cotton wool and papier-mâché.

In the 19th century, children also took part in masquerades. On such events girls, as a rule, dressed up as fairies, princesses or gypsies, The image of little Red Riding Hood was very popular. Boys disguised themselves as pirates, royal pages and princes.

After the revolution, Christmas and New Year became working days, the custom of decorating a Christmas tree was recognized as "priestly", and fancy dresses disappeared along with those festive holidays.

The tradition of arranging fancy dress New Year events was revived only in 1935. In 1937, the first publicly available New Year tree in Soviet Russia was mounted in the Pillar hall of Unions. Moreover, 10 years later, in 1947, January 1 officially became a day off. The return of the New Year designated as the all-Union holiday also meant the return of New Year costumes. Hence, at that time only children were dressed up in these costumes -- at matinees in kindergartens and schools, in the palaces of pioneers and in the Theater for Young Audiences. Parents themselves made the costumes. All sorts of available materials were used: gauze, cotton wool, curtains, foam rubber, broken Christmas tree decorations, beads, tinsel and other trifles. The most popular looks for a long time were bunny boys and snowflake girls.

1) The Phantom of the Opera is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart, and a libretto by Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe.

2) Treaty of Nystad - a peace treaty between the Russian kingdom and the Swedish kingdom, which ended the Northern War of 1700-1721.

3) Comes from (Italian felucca, from Arabic fuluka - boat), a small sailing vessel for coastal navigation; used in the Mediterranean, Black, Azov, Caspian and Aral seas for the transport of goods or fishing.

Based on materials https://www.culture.ru/s/maska/