Vagabonding Masks: The Italian Commedia dell’Arte in the Russian Artistic Imagination

Vagabonding Masks: The Italian Commedia dell’Arte in the Russian Artistic Imagination


Olga Partan

Series: Liber Primus
ISBN: 9781618115713 (hardcover)
Pages: approx. 250 pp.; 24 illus. 
Publication Date: March 2017


The iconic masks of the Italian commedia dell’arte—Harlequin, Pierrot, Colombina, Pulcinella, and others—have been vagabonding the roads of Russian cultural history for more than three centuries. This book explores how these masks, and the artistic principles of the commedia dell’arte that they embody, have profoundly affected the Russian artistic imagination, providing a source of inspiration for leading Russian artists as diverse as nineteenth-century writer Nikolai Gogol, modernist theater director Evgenii Vakhtangov, Vladimir Nabokov, and the empress of Russian popular culture Alla Pugacheva. The author presents a new perspective on this topic, showing how the commedia dell’arte has nourished a rich cultural tradition in Russia.

Olga Partan is assistant professor of Russian at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts. She received her PhD with a dissertation on the commedia dell’arte in Russian culture from Brown University in 2004. She has authored several articles and book chapters on Russian literature and the performing arts, and a Russian-language memoir You were right, Filumena! (Moscow: PROZAiK, 2012).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
A Note on Transliteration

Chapter 1: Early Harlequinized Art         
Chapter 2: Anna Ioannovna’s Italian Decade      
Chapter 3: Russifying the Commedia dell’Arte: Vasilii Trediakovsky and Aleksandr Sumarokov        
Chapter 4: Ramifications of the Italian Decade  
Chapter 5: Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat: The Italian Ancestry of Akakii Bashmachkin          
Chapter 6: The Modernist Revival of the Commedia dell’Arte  
Chapter 7: The Commedia dell’Arte in Evgenii Vakhtangov’s Princess Turandot        
Chapter 8: Harlequin and His Lath: Vladimir Nabokov’s Last Novel Look at the Harlequins!
Chapter 9: From the Empress Anna Ioannovna to the Empress of Popular Culture, Alla Pugacheva    
Epilogue: The Italian Arlecchino on the Post-Soviet Stage