living picture



  • A group of silent and motionless actors, usually arranged inimitation of a famous painting or to represent a biblical or historicalscene. The term is a translation of the French tableau vivant.In the 18th century Denis Diderot advocated their use to illustrateemotional and moral states, while in Victorian melodramas they wereoften introduced at climactic moments and at the ends of acts. The19th century period also saw the rise of the pose plastique,in which naked or near-naked women posed in imitation of classicalstatuary (such nudity being permissible as long as the actressremained motionless). In the music halls naked female performers weresometimes dusted white to resemble 'living statuary'.

    In the early 20th century living pictures were an importantelement in such lavish US revues as the Ziegfeld Follies andGeorge White's Scandals. A modern example of the tableauvivant occurs in Stephen Sondheim's musical Sunday in the Parkwith George (1983), in which Seurat's painting Sunday on theIsle of La grande Jatte comes to life.