Imperial Russia Real Life Cinderella Story (almost) on postcards

by Edward Bubis

This is a relatively new (published in 1935) but a very rare nevertheless (only 500 copies printed) Russian postcard depicting a portrait of a real person - one Parasha Kovaleva (Zhemchugova) (1768-1803) - serf actress of count N. Sheremetiev's theater.


This woman was a daughter of a local serf-blacksmith. For her beautiful lyrical soprano and almost classical features (see animation below) she was "chosen" for the count's theater and became a star of it - if this "title" is appropriate for a slave.

It's a photograph from an old painting. Artist is not mentioned but most likely it's by serf-artist N. Argunov (1771-1829). The contrast between those sad child's eyes and that pompous geroico-romantic garb is so striking that it makes it outstanding piece of art. Remember, it's the end of XVIII century and she is a slave.


Then unexpected happened - the count fell in love with her and married her. She became a countess (see second animation). But there was no "HAPPILY EVER AFTER" - high Russian society rejected them and they lived practically in complete social isolation. She died at 35 of tuberculosis. The author doesn't have the second postcard (where she's shown as a countess) and copied it from a book on Russian postcards he has.


PUBLISHER: IZOGIZ - state publishing enterprise of the USSR. 1935. ONLY 500 COPIES PRINTED!!!