Next VizCult: Annual Ferber Lecture, Laura Weigert, Rutgers University, TODAY

This paper interrogates the value of the term “tableau vivant” (living picture) to describe the figural groupings that adorned processions in fifteenth and sixteenth century France and Flanders. Vital to the tradition was the arrangement of human beings to represent biblical, mythological, and historical characters. The earliest pictures and written testimonials of this artistic practice confirm, however, that it also incorporated figures composed of a variety of materials and technologies; both animate and inanimate figures could be considered enlivened. This feature helps us account for one of the most surprising aspects of late medieval stagings: the appearance of naked female figures. In turn, it challenges assumed distinctions between media and a conception of animation rooted in a human presence.

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