ISSN: 2241-6692

Early 20th Century Greek Tableaux Vivants: Staging the Nation

Panayiota Konstantinakou


This paper focuses on tableaux vivants, a distinct performative genre that stands between the theatre and the visual arts and has close affinities with cinema. More specifically, it examines in detail the ideology and the repertoire of the tableaux vivants featured in Greek public festive and benefit performances in the early decades of the 20th century, in the midst of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and before the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922). Produced in the context of amateurism (the performers and artists/scholars being members of the upper class) and enacting pieces of classical, byzantine and contemporary Greek painting, sculpture and architecture, tableaux vivants of the time offer a highly idealised image of the Greek past, present and future, and as such can be seen as a manifestation of the ruling classes’ attempt to translate in a theatrical and visual language a continuous national narrative from antiquity to the present, as well as to boost the nation's morale in an extremely turbulent era in order to support further territorial claims. In that sense, these immovable pictures can be read as an 'invented tradition'.

Keywords: early Greek cinema, fine arts, invented traditions, national identity, photography, society amateurism, tableaux vivants