Natalia Danko’s Porcelain Theater. To Mark The 80th Anniversary Of The Creation William Shakespeare’s comedy ‘The Twelfth Night’ directed by N. P. Akimov’ Miniature Characters

23 октября 2020

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The series of sculptures ‘The Characters of William Shakespeare’s Comedy The Twelfth Night’ serves as an example of miniature plastic art and demonstrates the individual approach of sisters Natalia and Elena Danko to creating sculptural forms and paintings. The ‘Porcelain Suite’ is interesting because it was created by the Danko sisters entirely at home: from molding and casting to the unique painting of each product.

The premiere of the play ‘Twelfth Night’ took place at the Comedy Theatre in the spring of 1938. The director and artist was N. P. Akimov, the composer — V. V. Zhelobinsky. The roles were performed by: «Captain» — N. A. Nikolsky, «Orsino» — Zh. N. Letsky and A. A. Konsovsky (second line-up), «Sebastian» — N. A. Volkov, «Antonio» — A.V. Savostyanov, «Sir Toby» — B. M. Tenin and I. A. Smyslovsky (second line-up), «Andrew» — P. M. Sukhanov, «Malvolio» — A.D. Benyaminov, «Fabian» — A. A. Vinogradov and P. M. Aleynikov (second line-up), «Feste» — I. A. Hansel, «Olivia» — I. p. Gosheva, «Viola» — E. V. Junger, «Maria» — I. P. Zarubina, «The Priest» — A. K. Gun.

Н.Я. Данько (скульптура), Е.Я. Данько (роспись). «Герцор Орсино» – Ж.Н. Лецкий и «Юная Виола» – Е.В. Юнгер». 1939

Н.Я. Данько (скульптура), Е.Я. Данько (роспись). «Орсино» – Ж.Н. Лецкий». 1939

Н.Я. Данько (скульптура), Е.Я. Данько (роспись). «Себастьян» – Н.А. Волков». 1939

Н.Я. Данько (скульптура), Е.Я. Данько (роспись). «Мальволио» – А.Д. Беньяминов». 1939

Н.Я. Данько (скульптура), Е.Я. Данько (роспись). «Мария» – И.П. Зарубина». 1939

Н.Я. Данько (скульптура), Е.Я. Данько (роспись). «Оливия» – И.П. Гошева». 1939

Н.Я. Данько (скульптура), Е.Я. Данько (роспись). «Эндрю» – П.М. Суханов». 1939

Н.Я. Данько (скульптура), Е.Я. Данько (роспись). «Фесте» – И.А. Ханзель». 1939

In 1939, It was the 25th anniversary of N. Danko’s work at the Porcelain factory. As the head of the Sculpture Department and a leading sculptor at the Leningrad Porcelain Factory, she created such items whose themes were set by the official government’ propaganda. From many similar works that were successfully accepted by the Art Council and then released in mass production, Danko did not have creative satisfaction: she even wanted to leave the factory several times. This crisis forced her to work enthusiastically at home, for her own pleasure, without obeying or being guided by the policy of factory. According to the chief engineer of the Leningrad Porcelain Factory G. Efremov: ‘…She couldn’t imagine a rest without the creative work. At home, she rested doing her work…’.

Most likely, the idea of creating miniatures of Comedy characters belongs to the younger sister of the sculptor — Elena Danko, who was once an artist of the puppet theatre and participated in the production of many performances on the stage of Leningrad theatres. The Danko sisters literally fell in love with N. Akimov’s production «twelfth night» and attended the play at the Comedy theatre eleven (!) times. Every time I went to the theatre, they worked on a sculptural incarnation of heroes «realistic tales», Akimov called the play: Natalia sculpted from clay sketches of characters in different scenes and poses, and Elena drew sketches of the costumes of the characters of the play.

The Theatre actress E. V. Junger recalled the enthusiastic meeting of the actors with the Danko sisters, when the actors first saw themselves in miniature masterpieces: ‘…and on their twelfth visit to the play, Natalia and Elena asked all the actors to gather backstage in our actors’ foyer. They brought a wooden box that intrigued us all, and began to take out the miniature sculptures… It was amazing… There was no limit to the delight of the theatre actors…’.

It is interesting to quote a letter written in a calligraphic handwriting message from the actors of the Comedy Theatre, which they put in the ’magic box’ with miniatures given to them by the Danko sisters:

’During the entire existence of the ancient ’Illyria’, its inhabitants were not so deeply shocked by any bloody event or jubilation of careless joy as by the manifestation of the boundless nobility of two brilliant sculptors who perpetuated the imperfect images of the modest ’Illyrians’ with their work.

’Illyrian’ fantasy is powerless dignified way to respond to your priceless gift of sincere gratitude filling our hearts, makes us bow down to your inspired art and unparalleled generosity!

In order to avoid the shedding of blood in the fratricidal struggle for the right to possess a wonderful box, which hid in the womb of such a matchless jewel, ’Illyrians’ have decided to bring you this magical box, unworthy modifying its contents.

Sorry! But your attention has taken the sanity of the unlucky ’Illyrians’, who have been deprived of affection.

I. Zarubina, I. Gosheva, E. Junger, Zh. Letsky, I. Smyslovsky, A. Benyaminov, P. Sukhanov, B. Tenin, I. Hansel, N. Volkov, A. Savostyanov’.

So, exactly 80 years ago, each actor involved in the play was presented with a figure depicting him in a specific role, and the creator of the theatrical masterpiece — Akimov — got a complete set with all the performers. Such a gift was the highest award to the famous director: after all, he was a major collector of antiquities and could appreciate the unique work of miniatures. After a long time after their creation, as well as their existence in the cataclysms of the twentieth century, many sculptures now adorn the collections of various museums in the country, are the pride of private porcelain collections, but, of course, some copies still remain in the families of actors of that wonderful pre- war Comedy Theatre.

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