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Straßburger Mummenschanz im russischen Pleskau im Jahre 1644?: Eine deutsche Schaustellertruppe versucht ihr Glück im Zarenreich
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Modern Languages.
2016 (German)In: Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, ISSN 0021-4019, Vol. 64, no 1, 1-25 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This interdisciplinary study deals with an unusual German-Russian cultural encounter: a group of strolling German artists who crossed the border of Russia in the summer of the year 1644, on an extensive tour that had brought them to the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and the Baltic littoral (Reval and Dorpat). In Pleskau/Pskov, in the northwest part of the Muscovite state, they asked for permission to stay for some time, apparently in order to entertain the inhabitants and earn some money.

Our primary focus is on a broadside – an advertisement for a group of tightrope walkers, illustrated with a copper etching – that has survived in the Russian State Archives of Ancient Documents (RGADA) in Moscow. The anonymous and undated broadside provides a great deal of indirect information about the performers, both through its large hand-coloured copper illustration and a detailed explanatory text in German. Thanks to the fact that we also found some additional documents, kept at the same archive – albeit not together with the advertisement – that we could link together with the broadside, we were in the lucky situation of being able to identify the strolling troupe and date the broadside to the year 1644 or a few years earlier. The principal of the troupe, Simon Dannenfels, was born in Strassburg in 1594; the other performers were his own children and three additional acrobats, mentioned by name in the Russian documents although we were not able to identify them further. In the article, Dannenfels’ life as a strolling artist is described on the basis of both published research and primary archival documents, above all from Strassburg, Stockholm, and Moscow. The Russian documents show that the German troupe was not welcome in Muscovy. As soon as the letter by the Pskov authorities, asking for advice on handling these foreigners, had been delivered to the tsar, the Russian court ordered that the comedians should be expelled from Muscovite territory. The documents do not tell us whether the troupe had any opportunities to show their artistic talents during the time it took for the Pskov authorities’ letter to be sent to Moscow and the tsar's answer to be sent back to Pskov (about one month). Although foreign artists had been employed at the tsars’ courts prior to Dannenfels, the Strassburg-born artist and his troupe were the first for whom we can show that they came to the country on their own initiative, without any invitation by the Russian authorities whatsoever.

The article is relevant not only for the field of German and Russian cultural history, but also for the study of art history and more particularly the history of printed broadsides that were used as advertisements for artistic programmes. The ‘Moscow’ broadside is in all likelihood not only a unique copy of the Dannenfels troupe's advertisement, but possibly also the oldest dated (or dateable) broadside with a copper etching from the German-speaking territories that advertises an artistic performance.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. Vol. 64, no 1, 1-25 p.
Keyword [de]
Kupferstich, Simon Dannenfels, Straßburg, Pleskau, 1644, deutsch-russische kulturelle Beziehungen
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
Slavic Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-280661ISI: 000373412500001OAI: diva2:911553
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, RFP12-0055:1

English title in Web of Science: Strassburg Maskers in Pskov in 1644: A German Strolling Troupe Seeks Its Fortune in the Tsar's Russia

Available from: 2016-03-13 Created: 2016-03-13 Last updated: 2016-09-05Bibliographically approved

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