What are living paintings, or How the aristocrats had fun 200 years ago
What are living paintings, or How the aristocrats had fun 200 years ago

In an era when people did not even dream of televisions and computers, a whole culture of home entertainment has developed. Aristocrats, having free time, could read aloud with their families, arrange small concerts or home theater performances. One of the favorite pastimes of the past centuries was living pictures. In order to please the audience with an unusual spectacle, the ladies spared no effort, time and imagination, and the gentlemen obediently stood up in the place indicated to them and took the necessary pose. This art form, completely forgotten today, was popular even in the family of Queen Victoria.

Living paintings today are classified as a rare type of pantomime. Previously, for such a performance, one or more people, dressed in appropriate outfits, created a scene imitating a famous work of art, episode from history or literary work. Frozen for a while, the speakers delighted the audience with the view of a "come to life" picture. Despite the seeming simplicity and ingenuity, such entertainment required a developed artistic taste and artistic talent. History has preserved for us the names of some ladies who are so skillful in this aristocratic entertainment that their performances even attracted spectators.

Lady Hamilton was considered one of the most famous performers of live paintings at the end of the 18th century. She called her performances (posing). The favorite themes of the performances were antique works of art, and the talented lady drew inspiration from the collections of ancient Greek and Roman vases. The owners of the salons were happy to get a fashionable performer for at least one evening, and the audience was delighted with the art and grace with which Emma Hamilton staged these performances. The main attributes for creating antique costumes for ladies at that time were considered shawls, of which there were many in the arsenal of every fashionista. Draping them, they created both tunics and head covers.

Lady Hamilton is one of the brightest ladies of the 18th century

Goethe, who visited Lord Hamilton's house in 1787, left a description of such a performance in his Journey through Italy:

The royal families did not stay away from the entertainment, beloved by the aristocracy. Unfortunately, we can only judge the elegance of Lady Hamilton's poses from the sketches of artists, but at the end of the 19th century, thanks to photography, such paintings began to be captured on film. History has preserved unique footage taken in October 1888 at Balmoral Castle - the summer residence of the English monarchs. The numerous grandchildren of Queen Victoria gathered together for two whole days engaged in the creation and presentation of living pictures. The idea to arrange this entertainment belonged to the Queen's son-in-law, Prince Henry of Battenberg, and the Queen herself took an active part in the preparation of costumes and images. The surviving photographs allow us to see with our own eyes what it looked like.

In the next photo we can see Princess Alix of Hesse, with her hair loose, she depicts a girl preparing for a tonsure, and around her in monastic robes - Princess Maud, Louise and Victoria of Wales, Princess Frederica of Hanover and Miss Robson. The future Russian empress in this picture is 16 years old.

Live painting "The Novice": Princess Alix of Hesse, Maud, Louise and Victoria of Wales, Frederica of Hanover and Miss Robson

The lively painting depicting a tragic scene from Romeo and Juliet delighted the stern Queen Victoria. She noted that Sir Fleetwood Edwards "looked painfully real" in her.

Living paintings "Romeo and Juliet": Princess Maud of Wales (Juliet), Sir Fleetwood Edwards (Romeo), Moritz Muther (monk)

The living painting Elsa depicts the heroes of Wagner's Lohengrin.

Living painting "Elsa": Princess Frederica of Hanover (Elsa), Minnie Cochrane (Ortruda), Henry of Battenberg (Telramund)

History has always been one of the popular themes of such performances. For example, in the next picture, Princess Beatrice of Battenberg appears as Elizabeth of Thuringia.

Princess Beatrice of Battenberg (Elizabeth of Thuringia), her husband (Landgrave of Thuringia) and Princess Louise of Wales (maid of honor)

Of course, it was not without the ancient subjects loved at that time, and a palm tree in a tub and an old fake vase created the necessary flavor.

A living painting based on an ancient Greek tragedy: Princess Frederica of Hanover (Antigone), Miss Robson (Ismena)

Historians believe that such "plastic experiments" were reflected in the search for ways to develop many types of art. Artists and choreographers were interested in the performances, and later the genre of staged photography appeared, which seemed to grow out of such amusements of bored aristocrats.

Continuing the theme of aristocratic entertainment of the past, a story about obscene makeup, harmful bathing and other prim facts from the Victorian era.

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