Larisa Nikiforova
Larisa Nikiforova.

Larisa Nikiforova is Professor of the Department of Philosophy, History and Theory of Art at the Vaganova Ballet Academy (Saint-Petersburg); member of Russian Union of Artists (Art-critic department); Russian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, a member of the editorial board of the “Society, Environment, Development” journal ( Research interests: 18th century Art and visual culture, Representation of power in art and culture; Court culture. Major publications: Palace of Baroque: The Experience of Interpretation with the Help of Rhetoric (2003); Palace in Russian Culture (2006), The Edifices of Power: Cultural History of Palaces (2011).


A number of allegorical ballets or divertissements using the plot of the Golden Fleece were performed on Russian 18th century scene from the 1750s to the 1770s. The main performance about Medea was “Medea and Jason” ballet (1791, several times revived, choreographer Charles Le Picq, the follower of Jean-Georges Noverre, performed up to 1831). Both episodes of the Medea myth - Colchidian and Corinthian - had political implications in the context of Russian-Turkish wars (1768 – 1774; 1787 - 1791) and the so-called “Greek Project” of the Empress Catherine II. The geopolitical content of the "Greek project" involved the creation of a new Greek Orthodox Empire and the expansion of Russian influence on the Balkans, but the cultural dimension raised the project above current military and diplomatic issues. The core idea was the cultural succession of Russia from Greece, the idea of Russia as a direct heiress of Greek antiquity.

The performances based on Colchidian episode of the Medea myth were included in a set of relevant political metaphors of the time. The images of Northern Jason, Argonauts, seizure of the Golden Fleece poetically embodied the Archipelago expedition of the Russian Navy (1769-1774) and the incorporation of Crimea (1783). The perception of these stories overlapped with the reader's experience - the love story of Medea and Jason was well known thanks to the "History of the Destruction of Troy", extremely popular in 18th century Russia.

The Corinthian episode of Medea story did not have direct political allusions, but it supported the Russian Greco-philia more in aesthetic rather than political sense. The image of the suffering and avenging Medea was not very popular in Russian 18th century literature and drama. The ballet of Charles Le Picq with its rich theatrical history became the most substantial piece where this subject was shown (up to the premiere of “Medea” tragedy in 1819 by Hilaire Bernard de Requeleyne Longepierre).