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Tableaux vivants – Fantasy as medicine

May 6, 2020 | JMW News

In the past weeks on countless digital platforms and via social media it has been possible to observe how people put on strange things, set a table and possibly place their pets next to them. It looks a little odd, but it helps against boredom. A picture of the scene is then taken and sent out into the world via Instagram or other channels.

What people (now in the Corona crisis) are using as a little trick against the circumstances is an 18th century invention and was customary as evening entertainment at the French court and later in the circles of the bourgeoisie. The hosts invited guests, who had to dress up and do their hair in a particular way to recreate a painting together – at best, of course, a prominent work with high art-historical recognition. These “living pictures” were also en vogue in the Vienna Ringstrasse mansions. Everything took hours to set up; guests came and paid an entrance fee.

At a fundraising dinner at Palais Todesco in autumn 2015, one could see that “living pictures” can also be part of a museum event. A picture also presented in the exhibition was restaged by museum colleagues.

What works in the evening certainly works during the day, too, doesn’t it? The Jewish Museum Vienna invites young guests between the ages of 6 and 10 to have fun together on Sunday afternoons and on the occasion of the wienXtra holiday program in the museum, with the museum, with the themes of the exhibitions and, naturally, with each other. In the exhibition about the Vienna Ringstrasse we took everyday objects of the 21st century from a box of knick-knacks to make props for a fictitious little play that takes place in one of the elegant Jewish Ringstrasse mansions. The noble ladies and gentlemen have a headache, or are in a good mood, or are bored, or are elegantly drinking a cup of invisible tea. To make sure nobody has to study lines of text, pantomime is chosen as the form of presentation. Since the young guests and we have a lot of fun making things up, we have expanded the “tableaux vivants” education program beyond the scope of the temporary exhibition.

And what about the three ladies and the gentleman in white? They are swimmers from the Jewish sports club Hakoah with their trainer. As long as social distancing continues, we invite our readers to re-enact this scene as a “tableau vivant.” The temperatures will soon allow the appropriate outfit to be worn. But if not, then things have to be invented. The three in bathrobes, the three at breakfast, while checking their appointments – Hedy Bienenfeld, she is on the far right, was also a model. They could be writing down appointments in a calendar, right?

Send us your photos and stories; we will make an online exhibition out of them.
Send them via e-mail tours@jmw.at or via post to Jüdisches Museum Wien, z.H. Vermittlung, Dorotheergasse 11, 1010 Wien

Fantasy is medicine. Anytime, anywhere. No unpleasant side effects are known.