Shows and fashion of Russian culture in France

Shows and fashion of Russian culture in France

  • Michel Strogoff.

  • Skobeleff Racecourse.

    LEVY Charles

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Title: Michel Strogoff.

Author :

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 94.4 - Width 64.5

Technique and other indications: Handcoloured lithograph Advertising poster for a show based on Michel Strogoff by Jules Verne after 1876.

Storage place: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Picture reference: 05-509397 / 61.18.22E

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

To close

Title: Skobeleff Racecourse.

Author : LEVY Charles (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 125 - Width 90

Technique and other indications: Lithography.

Storage place: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot / All rights reserved

Picture reference: 05-509304 / 61.18.4F

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot / All rights reserved

Publication date: December 2010

Historical context

Russia, East of Europe

Opposed during the Napoleonic era or, later, during the Crimean War (1854-1856), France and Russia began in the last quarter of the century a spectacular rapprochement that was not only diplomatic. It was on the occasion of Tsar Alexander II's visit to France that Jules Verne (1828-1905) serialized Michael Strogoff, historical novel in which he recounts the adventures of a tsar's courier who must cross the country partly occupied by the Tatars. This Eastern threat is topical: in 1877-1878, Russia leads and wins a war against Turkey, in particular thanks to General Skobelev (1843-1882), whose courage and victories ensure Bulgaria's independence from -vis of the Ottomans. A bulwark supposedly erected against a multifaceted "yellow peril", Russia asserts its belonging to Christian Europe, but also cultural and economic; France, for its part, intends to play a major role in a central Europe in full reorganization due to the loss of power of the two Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.

Image Analysis

Russian heroism in posters

From 1880, with Adolphe d´Ennery (1811-1899) who had already worked on Around the World in Eighty Days the previous year, Jules Verne adapted his novel Michael Strogoff for the scene in a "play with great spectacle in 5 acts & 16 tableaux". The show poster, a lithograph by the printer Émile Lévy, rich in detail, depicts two key "paintings" on a green-blue background. Verne readers will have recognized the ball scene which opens the novel and the famous episode of the torture inflicted on the hero. The upper scene shows an orderly, hierarchical world, on which the Russian imperial flag flies - with the black two-headed eagle on a yellow background - and the military seem to ensure that this festival runs smoothly under the lanterns. Below, in a decor of Arabian towers, the Tatar people form a shapeless, illegible mass, who witness without emotion the preparations for the cruel ritual. By its customs, this society belongs to another age. While Michel Strogoff struggles at the sight of the white-hot scimitar, the beautiful weeping Nadia on the right recalls Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross.

No sacrifice, no suffering for Skobelev, hero of the Russo-Turkish war to whom his love of the color white - for the horse he rode, even for the uniform he wore - had earned the nickname of "white rider. ". This advertising poster designed by Jules Chéret (1836-1932), master of the genre, announces a show given at the Hippodrome, one of the main Parisian halls of the time, known in particular for its circus and cabaret acts. The general shows off his imperious personality and determination in the index finger as he points to the distant mosque on which Russian gunners in the background direct cannon fire. The building is reminiscent of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, near which Skobelev's troops achieved a decisive victory. The beard worn by the Russian military in imitation of the Tsar gives a family resemblance to the fiery general and the standard-bearer who walks beside him. Arranged in the same line and in close-up, the two-headed eagle of the Tsarist flag, the highest military decorations of the empire that Skobelev pinned to his chest, and the head of his horse literally crush a tiny Orient, relegated to it. 'background. At the bottom of this pious image is the name of the hero of this epic.


Towards Franco-Russian rapprochement

The premiere of the show Michael Strogoff takes place in the heart of Paris, on November 17, 1880, at the Théâtre du Châtelet. The poster artist opposes culture and barbarism: Russians dressed in the latest Parisian fashions party in a sumptuously illuminated palace, while crudely dressed Tatars flock to the spectacle of torture. The fact that the imperial flag was worn as an accessory by playful dancers, and not by horsemen or hussars of the guard in close ranks, underlines Russia's character as a civilized and peaceful nation. But it is a nation that has its traitors: Ivan Ogareff wears the red and white hat typical of the Tatars. The henchmen holding Strogoff are represented in yellow, a color which is both that of the Tsar and that of peril. If there is no people clearly identified by the reddish banners, it is because the enemy of Russian and European civilization is everywhere.

In the poster for the show dedicated to Skobelev, there is no need to stage his great deeds: for the stature of the illustrious strategist fits an equestrian statue of a triumphant, this representation be it the most conventional there is. It is a simple message which, a few years before the conclusion of the Franco-Russian alliance (1892), is thus addressed to the French: Russia, strong of its army and its great men, is a key player in the diplomatic game. in Eastern Europe, where French interests are involved.

The two shows, sold out, secured a popular fortune for the “Russian theme” in French art and for Russian arts in France, anchoring a little more certain clichés on this people, good rider, good dancer, capable of refinement and of courage.

  • Hobbies
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • french riviera
  • Paris
  • lithography
  • poster
  • Verne (Jules)
  • Ennery (Adolphe d ')
  • Alexander II (Tsar)


Wladimir BERELOWITCH, The Great Russian Century, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Découvertes", 2005. Réjane BARGIEL and Ségolène LE MEN (eds.), Exhibition catalog La Belle Epoque by Jules Chéret, from poster to decor, Paris, Musée de la Publicité, June 23-November 7, 2010, Munich, Museum Villa Stuck, November 10, 2011 - February 4, 2012, Paris, Les Arts Décoratifs-B.N.F., 2010.Performing Arts in France: Illustrated Posters, 1850-1950, catalog written by Nicole Wild, Paris, B.N.F., 1976. Jean-Marie MAYEUR, The Beginnings of the Third Republic, 1871-1898, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. "Points", 1973.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Shows and fashion of Russian culture in France"

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