Famous paintings have been flood the net but maybe not as we’re accustomed to viewing them. These aren’t simply reproductions. Literally coming into paintings have been being re-enacted in the home with art fans posing their way to everything from Girl with a Pearl Earring into American Gothic.
Given social distancing, it is not surprising portraits would be the most popular genre. Becoming home-bound also means using what’s readily available: a bath towel from the area of a lavish Renaissance apparel pots and pans rather than medieval headgear pets carrying on unexpected roles.
These pictures invoke a funny game of spot the difference. One particularly cheeky example reveals a few recreating a detail out of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, together with Bosch’s eccentric and whimsical world matched by modern verve.
All these recreations aren’t solely rooted from the boredom of quarantine. The urge to recreate paintings has an extensive history which speaks to a demand for shared cultural touchstones and their subversion. The happening subsequently disperse throughout Britain, Europe and America.
In Australiathere are recordings of those tableaux being filmed in theaters and families from the 1830s.
An 1871 American book, Parlor Tableaux and Amateur Theatricals, capitalises on “the fantastic desire among the rising generation to take part in this very simple and elegant entertainment”.
It features painstaking instructions for a day of entertainment, including the amount of tableaux (five to ten), forms (classical and modern) and genres (funny and serious).
Cabinets would roll until the spectacle of costumed figures posing together with backgrounds and props out of paintings by artists like Titian, Michelangelo and Rembrandt. Shouts of admiration or imagining games could ensue, with guests revealing their understanding of history (or lack thereof).
The sport was similar to charades, but quiet and immobile. Part of this trick was that the action of bodily control required to keep the pose before the curtains rolled down along with the actors ready for a different tableau.
Dress-up and posing are recorded as far back as ancient antiquity. Probably the most spectacular example of a tableau happened in 1458 about the entrance of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, into Ghent.
This vibrant and elaborate polyptych introduces a summation of all Christian theology its own diversion would have been a very ambitious undertaking. Just the naked figures of Adam and Eve could have been cheated in the diversion.
This was later tableaux of Victorian societies, even when female nudes were acceptable and even encouraged. Throughout the late 19th century, morality laws were evaded from the stillness of these versions: provided that the girls were not moving, they might introduce the tableaux as art schooling, instead of titillation.
Afterwards tableaux made by well-known musicians stem from quite different motives, from satire to review.
Pier Paolo Passolini’s La Ricotta reveals the making of many tableaux of mannerist paintings for comic effect. Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #224 out of 1990 is an appropriation of Caravaggio’s Young Sick Bacchus made four centuries before.
Within her re-enactment, Sherman utilizes make-up, prosthetics and props however there’s no doubt that we’re considering Sherman. Her appropriation raises significant questions about identity, feminism and the standing of pictures.
In our age of self-isolation, associations such as the Getty are asking recreations of functions from their collections.
Most importantly, tableaux vivants emphasize a fascination with shared cultural understanding: a premise that icons of artwork thing that studying and thinking about art is a vital action.
As we confront down weeks and even weeks in our houses, there also is a persuasive participatory component: why just consider a masterpiece if you are able to be one?