Lampascopes and football: the Moscow posters advertising at the turn of the century

December 24, 2021

Designing and drafting posters for theatre performances, concerts and circus shows is a real art. The poster must catch bypasser attention, and what is most important — attract him. Today's posters are laconic and simple. It's hard to imagine that a little over 100 years ago, reading street advertisements could take a few minutes. The posters, organized according to completely different principles, slowly explained the audience and the public about what awaited them.

Nikitin Brothers Circus: lampascopes and floating elephants

The poster for the circus performance “On land and on water. Nice — beautiful Riviera." Moscow Glavarchiv

“On land and on water. Nice — beautiful Riviera" this is the name of show in the famous Moscow circus of the Nikitin brothers. It is difficult to say in what year the premiere took place, but it can be assumed that Muscovites read this advertisement between 1911 and 1917: the text was written in accordance with the pre-revolutionary spelling rules, and the address indicated is a house on the corner of Tverskaya and Sadovaya-Triumfalnaya streets (now Bolshaya Sadovaya street), where the circus was located in 1911-1926. Today this building houses the Satire Theater.

The Nikitin brothers — Dmitry, Peter and Akim — opened their circus in 1886. Before that, they performed in other owner's circuses, as well as booths and puppet theaters: Dmitry was an muscleman, Peter was a sword swallower and gymnast, and Akim juggled. At first, the circus was located on Tsvetnoy Boulevard. The Glavarkhiv keeps a circus poster dating back to this period. The verbose announcement invites to "particularly interesting show in three sections", in which eight stallions take part, "Misha Taptygin the bear, who will ride a horse while standing," "Little Theodore" with gymnastic exercises, as well as physicist K.O. Krause exposing "lampascope with movements and transformations." This show took place on 28 October 1887.

The poster for the Nikitin brothers' circus. 1887 Moscow Glavarchiv

Quite quickly, the Nikitin brothers left other circuses behind, to the annoyance of the latter. Albert Salamonsky, whose circus (by that time very popular was in the neighborhood) was not particularly happy with their success. Deciding to get rid of competitors, Salamonsky bought the Nikitins circus building, and the older brother Dmitry signed away right to perform in Moscow, obliging the brothers to leave Moscow. The brothers left Moscow, but a year later they returned and resumed the work of the circus. Salamonsky tried to sue them, but lost.

In the 1890s, the brothers parted ways. Peter retired from circus activities, Dmitry opened his own panopticon museum and menagerie, and Akim became the only head of the family circus. He worked until his death in 1917.

“There are a lot of participants in this show,” says the advertisement of the show “On Land and On Water. Nice is a beautiful Riviera”, artists, the big ballet of bathers, floating boats, and also floating elephants at great depths. In Russia, this is all new, everything is original, a funny plot, incessant laughter for everyone. This show was personally directed by A.A. Nikitin, the circus director".

In 1919, the Nikitins circus was nationalized and renamed the Second Moscow State Circus.

Moscow Art Theater: "Uncle Vanya"

Playbill of the play "Uncle Vanya". 1899 Moscow Glavarchiv

This modest poster invited Muscovites to the play "Uncle Vanya" based on the play of the same name by Anton Chekhov. It announces the 27th show in February 1900. It is interesting that the person depicted on the poster looks like the playwright himself, not the leading actor, actor Alexander Vishnevsky. Behind him, the painter drew a village manor house — location of "Uncle Vanya" play. In the upper right corner is something that looks like an excerpt from a ledger: you can read the words "transfer", "creamy", "sour cream 20 pounds." Uncle Vanya and his unfortunate niece Sonya from the sad scene in the finale of the play work over the accounting books. Then the famous phrase sounds: "We shall rest, Uncle Vanya."

Chekhov wrote the drama about the intellectual Ivan Voinitsky, whose all life passed in the shadow of a famous relative, Professor Serebryakov, and who was in love with the professor young wife, in 1889 (the play was finally completed in 1896). During the 1890s, Uncle Vanya was staged in several Russian theaters. And in 1899, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko and Konstantin Stanislavsky presented their version to the public.

The premiere of the performance at the Moscow Art Theater took place on October 26. The performance, in which the then stars of the troupe were involved — Olga Knipper, Alexander Vishnevsky, Vasily Luzhsky, Maria Lilina, as well as Stanislavsky himself as Astrov, was very popular. It was renewed on the stage of the theater in 1911, 1918 and 1926. However, at first, the creators were sure of his failure. Konstantin Stanislavsky in his book "My Life in Art" (1924) recalled:

“It’s hard to believe now that after the premiere of Uncle Vanya, we gathered in a close company in a restaurant and shed tears there, since the performance, in the opinion of everyone, was a failure. However, history showed that the performance was recognized, lasted more than twenty years in the repertoire and became known in Russia, Europe and America."

Glukhov stadium: closing of the football season

The poster of the football match between the Glukhov and the 1st Bogorodsk teams. 19 September 1910. Moscow Glavarchiv

The poster of the football match between the Glukhov and the 1st Bogorodsk teams. 19 September 1910. Moscow Glavarchiv (Moscow Main Archive Department)

Behind this modest poster is an interesting story related with the first football teams in Glukhov, near Moscow. At the end of the 19th century, specialists from England worked at the Bogorodsk-Glukhov manufactory, who tried to popularize football. Young people liked the game, but at first some others opposed it. The manufacturer Arseny Morozov personally prohibited the football.

However, everything changed in 1910, when the Moscow Governor-General gave permission for the official creation of the Glukhov football team. The fact was that the son of Evgeny Sveshnikov, the manager of the manufactory factories, became interested in football. Factory workers became football players. Gradually, the matches turned into a part of festivities, and the football players got a permanent game place — the Glukhov stadium. The poster, preserved in the Glavarkhiv, invites everyone to the last game of 1910 — the entrance to the matches was free.


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