Exhibit in detail: Musical picture with a masquerade ball scene

Today, on the eve of the Old New Year, under the heading "Exhibit in detail" – musical picture automaton, created in Switzerland in the last quarter of the 20th century. The painting is a diorama depicting a scene with masquerade ball. The rectangular wooden frame is painted gold and decorated with bas-relief overlays with floral patterns along the perimeter. Two curly metal cranks for winding the mechanism are on the right lateral side, round knob for starting is between them. Metal rod with goldish overlay in the form of the sun with mask is on the upper panel, two figures in the masks are on the sides, a doll playing the drum is on the left hand side, a character playing trumpet is on the right hand side. Burgundy silk curtains are inside the frame. 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 lamp shades, decorated with beads is on the ceiling. All dolls are dressed in bright character clothes, masks are painted on their faces. While the mechanism is on, the sun moves on the upper plane of the frame, the figures on the sides imitate playing musical instruments, and the dolls on the stage represent theatrical performance. Pinned metal cylinder plays several fragments from the musical "The Phantom of the Opera" by Andrew Lloyd Webber.


Costumed events, 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 beginning, but in honor of the Northern War end. The emperor compiled the regulations for the carnivals personally, and sometimes he himself wrote scripts for the holidays.

Only those that were close to the emperor could participate in the masquerade at the court, the rest were allowed to the holiday only as spectators. The procession participants were divided into groups, each of which had its own main figure - most often a Roman deity, for example, Bacchus, Neptune or Faun. The grandiose performance could last the entire week, and it was forbidden to take off the costumes and withdraw from the images.

At the carnival in January 1722 in Moscow on the occasion of the Peace of Nystad1) conclusion, sixty sledges and horse-drawn carriages, decorated as sailing ships, galleys and Turkish feluccas2), drove through the streets. Under Elizaveta Petrovna, masquerades began to be called metamorphoses, that is, transformations. Women dressed for such events in men's suits - camisoles and pantaloons, and men had to dress up in dresses with corsets.

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

In the 19th century, winter holiday balls were usually held from the end of December to Maslenitsa festival. They carefully prepared for the masquerade, and the costumes were ordered from the best tailors and artists.

Each ball usually had a theme. 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 dresses of French queens.

In the 18th century, the fashion for everything Chinese came to the Russian Empire. The Heavenly 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 himself – as the Chinese ruler-Mandarin. Most of the costumes for this masquerade were created in the workshops of the Imperial Theaters.

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

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, he was remembered again thanks to the release of the opera Aida by composer Giuseppe Verdi, which took place 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.

Under Emperor Alexander III, historical balls in the Russian style became popular. In the folk dress store on Gorokhovaya Street in St. Petersburg, especially for the a la russe ball, one 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 obligatory red saffian leather boots.

Nicholas II organized another grandiose New Year’s holiday in the Russian style in 1903. The theme was the reign of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich - the emperor himself performed his role in the caftan made of gold brocade and royal cap. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was in the character of Tsarina Maria Ilyinichna. Even the 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 interest in everything oriental was also fueled by the performances of the Russian Seasons by Sergei Diaghilev.

Until the outbreak of the First World War, original masquerade costumes were popular as well. People dressed up in 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, Little Red Riding Hood's costume was also 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 the holiday.

The tradition of arranging fancy dress New Year's events was revived only in 1935. In 1937, the first public New Year tree in Soviet Russia was mounted in the Pillar hall of Unions. In addition, 10 years later, in 1947, January 1 officially became a day off. The return of the New Year in the status of an all-Union holiday also meant the return of New Year's costumes. Hence, at that time only children dressed up in them - at matinees in kindergartens and schools, in the palaces of pioneers and in the Young Spectators' Theatre. Parents themselves made the costumes. All sorts of improvised 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 have been bunny boys and snowflake girls.

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