Still Life?

Or, how to bring classic paintings to life. Or to stillness. Or something. Anyway, for a bit of fun:

It all started in 2006, when the Malatheatre company’s founder Ludovica Rambelli — passed away in April 2017 — gave a lecture at the University of Naples, on Caravaggio’s way of working. That’s when Ludovica realised that the best way to explain it was through a theatrical performance. “He used actors to build the scenes he painted, in fact we did not reproduce his work, but recreated what happened in his studio,” said current company director, Dora De Maio, referring to what for a few years has become a real play entitled La conversione di un cavallo. 23 Tableaux Vivants dalle opere di Caravaggio, or simply, Tableaux Vivants.

Inspired, among others, by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s short film La Ricotta, the intention of this show is to achieve “a great visual impact” with a minimalist scenography, baroque melodies — by composers such as Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi — and a focus located on one side, which emulates the suggestive light effect of the Italian master’s paintings.

Watch them at work here, too:

I think it would be fun to try at home (or with a dedicated group of amateurs), but I also think it would be incredibly difficult to pull off their wonderful level of ‘casual movements of (un)dress PERFECT POSE’. Excellent co-ordination and execution. And such perfect expressions.

Now, nobody beats the original, but k.d. lang does a pretty fine job, if you ask me.

Another must-listen version.


  1. says

    Those are amazing.

    There was a photographer on Deviantart for a (brief) while, who was doing stills from dramatic scenes enacted specifically to shoot photographic stills of. I’m not sure that’s the best way to explain it, but what I mean is they set up the lights, costumes, make-up, and had the scene played out while the photographer tried to nail the one moment that was right. I believe they mostly used friends/students/the guy down the road -- it was great stuff.

    To do this sort of thing I’d probably look for dancers, rather than actors. And alcohol would help.

    I love this sort of stuff. There was a movie done about Caravaggio, which had a lot of set-piece moments that were references to his artwork. Very clever. Thank you for sharing!

  2. rq says

    OMG, drunk painting re-enactment… If you ever organize this event, Marcus, please send me an invitation.

  3. says

    By the way: I have also had fantasies of doing this sort of thing. But…

    In my imagination, it is done with an actor playing the role of artist/director. To an empty stage, with their back to the audience, they describe the background and props, and -- as they do -- the props are brought out and put in place. Perhaps they say, “a light over there!” or whatever. “All right, now, there are two angels on the left side, in the shadows, watching the scene..” (angels appear from offstage and silently get into position) “and the main group in the middle…” In other words bring the audience into the creation of the scene until it’s done and ready and BOOM -- photograph it. If this were done in a large theater in Las Vegas or something, they could pick people out of the audience and create the scene with them, with perhaps a few plants in the audience to hold down the critical roles. In my mind, I see a scene in court, where there are solemn people in robes seated in high chairs; these are all people pulled from the audience. For the players on the stage there is a monitor so they can see themselves seeing themselves.

  4. says

    Or, do it in a train station.

    Create a theatrical still image of some event happening in a train station. Use a mix of actual travelers and dancers. Argh.

    I’d love to see this sort of thing, but I have no ability to make that sort of thing happen. I know people out in Los Angeles who could/would do it on a lark, but it’d be a matter of (as always) money and permits. One of my good friends out in LA is a Japanese Dance Master, so basically, it’d be a matter of funding her, winding her up, and watching the shit hit the fan at high speed.

  5. rq says

    I was going to say it sounds like you have this all planned out, Marcus! It would be incredible to watch something like this happen. I don’t know any of the right people -- well, distantly: I know some people in photography and some actors and some dancers, but this requires a lot more co-ordination of parts than I am currently capable of!
    I remember that mechanics series, and it is just as good now as it was when I first saw it. My favourite is the one with the passing of the wrench (“Creation of the Mechanic”?).

  6. says

    What a great idea and, eh Performance, for the lack of a better word.
    And KD Lang. Yes, I got a crush on her, don’t judge me.

    BTW, my friend who works as a sexton has reported on people using “Hallelujah” in their weddings. They probably also use “The One Ring” as their wedding ring…

  7. rq says

    There is a beautiful song whose chorus translates to something like “If I have you, I don’t the heavens or the earth; if I have you, I feel time stop” etc., and was a big hit in weddings a few years ago. (I will.share it sometime, it really is quite heartfelt and beautiful.)
    It is from a musical tragedy about drug addiction, a guy singing to heroin…
    People are weird.

  8. consciousness razor says

    Inspired, among others, by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s short film La Ricotta, the intention of this show is to achieve “a great visual impact” with a minimalist scenography, baroque melodies — by composers such as Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi — and a focus located on one side, which emulates the suggestive light effect of the Italian master’s paintings.

    Palestrina, Monteverdi, or Gabrieli would have been appropriate for that period in Italy. (Also, for a fun bit of trivia, Vincenzo Galilei, AKA Galileo’s dad.) This is still the late Renaissance (re: music), and the way I would put it is that these were some of the people who were most influential in how (what we know as) Baroque music gradually developed over the next century or so. Anyway, Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi are all anachronistic for Caravaggio.

    Also, calling Mozart’s music “baroque” is a bit … suspicious. He’s a classical composer if anybody is, born some years after both Bach and Vivaldi were already dead.

  9. DonDueed says

    The original M*A*S*H movie included a reenactment of the DaVinci painting of The Last Supper (though not in period costume).

  10. voyager says

    That was fabulous, rq. I watched it several times.
    I’d love to be involved with a project like that, so please count me in as well, Marcus.

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