07 June 2020

Maria Germanova's costume for Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird - updated

I originally posted this unsourced photo in August of 2008 and asked readers if anyone could decipher the Cyrillic to find out what the backstory it might be. Gypsy? Native costume? Musician? Tambourines??

Very quickly "Katie" replied that this was a costume for a stage performance of "The Blue Bird," a 1908 French play by Maurice Maeterlinck (subsequently adapted into 5 movies, including one with Shirley Temple), and e-l-i-s-e identified the actress as Maria Germanova.

In November 2009, Pep Armengol made a very interesting observation in the Comments, noting the resemblance of this lady's outfit to that of the "Lady of Elche" - a stone bust found in Spain in 1897 and presumed to be Iberian art work from the 4th century B.C. Coincidence? Or was this lady's headdress modeled on some ancient tradition? Photo below.

In December, teresa's soundworld found this biography of Maria Germanova, and a cornucopia of picture postcards from the stage performance stored in the New York Public Library's Digital Gallery.

I'm still a bit confused as to whether the contraptions next to her ears in the stage costume are derived from some ethnic fashion (re the Lady of Elche above), or whether it's something symbolic re the context of The Blue Bird play itself.   But this certainly has become an interesting sequence of discovery.

An additional update:  Eternal Remont noticed a resemblance between Gemanova's headdress and the "cinnamon bun" hairstyle made famous by Princess Leia (to the left is a ski cap knit into the same general shape).

And finally, a person commenting on the Eternal Remont post noticed the similarity to a traditional hairstyle of the Hopi Indians.  Photo: Library of Congress.

Reposted from 2010 to add this image of a young Hopi woman:

The hairstyle is described at the via as a "squash blossom whorl."


  1. It's a theatrical costume for the play "Blue Bird." This woman is a fairy.

  2. Sorry, she is an actress that plays a fairy. :)

  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blue_Bird_(play)

  4. Thank you, Katie. You continue a tradition that is now almost two years old here of my not being able to ask a question that some reader is not able to answer.

  5. You are welcome. I'm glad I could help.

  6. Or perhaps just costume design inspiration for characters from Planet Naboo

  7. I'm with Anonymous. Looks like Padme's grandmother's wedding dress.

  8. Interesting to note that Russian actually has two words for "blue". "Siniy", as in the title in question, "Sinaya ptitsa", means dark blue. "Golubiy" means light blue. FWIW.


  10. Thank you, Pep!! I've updated the text and reposted it today.

  11. She is the actress Maria GERMANOVA who played at the Moscow Arts Theatre, photographed in 1908 for Maeterlinck’s play : the Blue Bird, produced by Stanislavsky.
    Thanks for the idea :
    http://e-l-i-s-e.blogspot.com/ (28/11/09)!

  12. I can see that everyone else beat me to it, however if you'd like more information on the actress, I have compiled quite a bit, as well as a plethora of images.


    mangoweb/aka ghoulnextdoor

  13. did you get this information here? http://ghoulnextdoor.tumblr.com/post/173218669

    mangoweb's research traced this photo back to the NYPL archives:

    in case you wanted to cite her research and post the original source

  14. teresa, thank you. There's enough material at your link for me to start a separate post, which I will do. And I'll add the link to this post after I get some other chores done.

  15. Hi -- found the picture this week on the Historic LoLs site, and started looking around.

    I know a bit about European medieval costumes, and her hat looks to be derivative of some from the high middle ages, especially the wired veil parts.

    I have some images from the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries up on my website which show hats like this; they are from around 1426.

    I'll hunt on your site to see if you have more posts about this fascinating photograph. Thank you!

  16. Therefore, her blue bird costumes resemble from ancient important personality.

    I love this place it teaches me to learn something about past.

  17. The rodete or wheel headgear does appear in a few surviving examples of Iberian sculpture like the one cited in the updated entry. Now I am obsessed with finding out the cultural significance!

  18. Or older. Linkrot. I'll adjust the text. Thanx.

  19. great post- Tlingit/Unangax̂ artist Nicolas Galanin has also played with and combined these images:

  20. Princess Vespa wore similar headphones in Spaceballs.



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