Our Notes & References
Rare broadside for an impressive kinetozographic theatre of 400 animated figures in Moscow, by a hot-air balloon enthusiast now in the Guinness World Records.
Forerunners of cinema (“kino” in Russian), kinetozographic (from the Greek, kinetos – “moving”, zoon – “animal” and grapho – “write”) or, as it was often called, optical theatres specialised in showing images in motion. They appeared in Russia in the late 18th century, using light and images placed on a small stage, often only in a box, with side mechanisms animating various objects. In 1805, a Moscow student writes that he went to a New Year’s Eve kinetozographic show and was absolutely amazed with the very lively and radiant scenes he saw in that “tiny theatre” (Zhikharev, 174).
Iordakii Kuparenko (also Jordaki, 1780-1844) brought the show to another level and became one of the main innovators in this field: no “tiny theatre” anymore on this broadside, but a rich show with firing canons, an erupting Vesuvius, 400 animated figures, and three rows of spectators. In an article about this theatre in Moskovskie vedomosti a few years later, a critic thought that the performances looked “particularly amusing when you look at them from a distance. Imagine a painting of 15 to 20 feet long depicting some beautiful city square, with all the accompanying overflows of light and shade. The square is empty – there is no living creature in the painting and you get frustrated – but a minute later, something starts to move on the edges and suddenly the square is full of people” (Kulish, 152) (our translation).
Kuparenko himself was a remarkable character. Born in Romania, he began his career as a stunt performer who later developed a keen interest in engineering, constructing and piloting hot air balloons. He conducted three flights in 1806-1806 over Warsaw and Vilnius, with mixed results: an emergency landing and an accident. These brought Kuparenko fame: he is now inscribed in the Guinness World Records as the first survivor of an air crash and for the first successful use of a parachute in action!
Coming back to earth, he opened a puppet theatre in Warsaw in 1816 and began touring across the Russian Empire. This first theatre gained popularity and several shows were played in various cities simultaneously thanks to imitators abusively using his name (according to Golodovskii). He also established in 1834, the year of this broadside, a fixed theatre in St. Petersburg.
This announcement for Kuparenko’s kinetozograficheskie vidy promises new spectacular performances, mainly depicting the (almost 10-year-old) Coronation of Tsar Nicholas I in the Kremlin, with various scenes, striking sounds and a very populated procession. A few other smaller shows are also presented, such as the view of the Gibraltar fortress, exchanging canon firing with the passer-by ships; the Louvre palace with the Parisians walking around; and an eruption of the Vesuvius in Naples, with all the relevant spreading fire and lava.
Please note: we can offer a few other such announcements by Kuparenko for slightly different shows at other dates in 1833 and 1834; please inquire.
Golodovskii, Boris, Istoria Belorusskogo Teatra Kukol. Opit konspekta, 2014.
Golodovskii, Boris. Kukly. Entsiklopedia. / Kinetozographia. Moskva, Vremia, 2003. (online)
Konechnyi, Albin, Byloi Peterburg: proza budnei i poezia prazdnika. NLO, 2021.
Kulish, Anatoli, Letopis teatra kukol v Rossii XIX veka. SPb., 1994.
Sarieva, E.A., Razvlechenia v Staroi Moskve. Ocherki Istorii (60-80-e gody XIX veka). Moskva, Gosudarstvenii Institut Iskusstvoznania, 2013.
Zhikharev, S. P., Zapiski sovremennika. Dnevnik studenta. Iskusstvo, 1989. (online)