Tableau vivant

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A tableau vivant is a French term used in theatre to refer to a silent, static scene, performed by actors or models in costume - thus combining aspects of theatre and the visual arts.

Strictly speaking the French term has a wide range of meanings[1], and originally referred to a small desk, but is now more commonly known in internationally in the arts as the term for what may be termed a "living picture", in various forms.

The simplified term tableau is more often found in English (the plural being written either in the French style as tableaux, or in Anglicised form as tableaus) In Dutch this is known as a tafereel (though the term has a very broad meaning the Netherlands, as it does in France[2]). In Afrikaans tafereel occurs longside the later term tablo.

Tableaux in various forms have over the centuries been a major feature of public celebrations, historical enactments, pageants, carnivals, and so on.

Today the theatrical practice is also found in some films and TV dramas, and continues as a live entertainment in the "living statues of street performers.

It has also been a prominent feature of certain styles of the visual arts, occurring in many works of the Romantic, Aesthetic, Symbolist, Pre-Raphaelite, and Art Nouveau movements for instance.


Marisa Keuris. 2012. "Taferele, tableaux vivants, tablo’s en die vroeë Afrikaanse drama (1850–1950)", LitNet Akademies Jaargang 9 (2).

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