“The Judgment of Paris. Birth of a Goddess” exhibition

Sheremetev Palace — Museum of Music
“The Judgment of Paris. Birth of a Goddess” exhibition

The Festival program will continue with the opening of “The Judgment of Paris. Birth of a Goddess” exhibition in the Sheremetev Palace jointly with the Museum of Theater and Musical Art. The project is dedicated to the actresses who shone on the Russian stage and became an object of adoration for the public, and a source of inspiration for creators – ballet masters, composers, writers, directors and artists. Belonging to everyone, they belonged to no one. Reflected in the mirror fragments of their roles, they did not coincide with any of them.

The chronological framework of the exhibition covers two periods: the Belle Epoque (1880s-1914) and the post-revolutionary era, including the height of Stalinism (1920s-1950s). The Belle Epoque saw the emergence of the cult of the woman that the Goncourt brothers wrote about: “The woman has replaced religion and is beginning to produce what religion usually produces: she fills minds and hearts. She is an idea placed on top of the society.” During the Soviet period, the “idea of the woman” underwent a radical transformation, but remained at the top of the society.

Increasingly often choosing the creative professions of a writer, sculptor, and painter, women were faced with a dilemma: like Georges Sand, to assert that “genius has no gender”, or like Virginia Woolf, to insist on the feminine nature of their creative work. Female representatives of the performing arts were initially spared such a choice and felt no need to deny their feminine nature. The all-conquering femininity was an integral part of their talent and creativity, further fueling the public’s adoration. The Theater and Music magazine wrote in 1922: “For on the day when the theater action began, a woman found the most brilliant way to fully reveal her soul. The theater was the first to not only make a woman free, but to raise her to the crest of glory.” 

All the heroines of the exhibition were in their time “risen to the crest of fame”: ballerinas Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Olga Spesivtseva, Isadora Duncan, Marina Semenova, Galina Ulanova, singers Pauline Viardot, Lina Cavalieri, Anastasia Vyaltseva, actresses Eleonora Duse, Vera Komissarzhevskaya, Maria Savina, Maria Andreeva, Alice Koonen, Zinaida Reich, Lyubov Orlova. The exhibition explores the phenomenon of the “goddesses of the stage” in such aspects as relations with the Master, relations with the public, and relations with the Power. Accordingly, the plot of the exhibition is built on the intersection of three nodal themes: “The Workshop”, “The Art of Belonging to the People”, and “The Path of Light”. To trace the evolution “from the ideal to the idol”, portraits, documents, posters and costumes of the characters will be supplemented with branded goods demonstrating the scale of popularity and worship. 

Partners of the exhibition: the State Russian Museum, the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Academy of Arts, the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, the A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theater Museum, the State Historical Museum, the V. Dahl State Literary Museum.