Dancing statues and the myth of Venice: Ancient sculpture on the opera stage

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This essay considers seventeenth-century Venetian dancing statues in the context of the public statuary assembled from the Grimani legacy to the Serenissima and exhibited in the Biblioteca Marciana. Taking into account Elizabeth Croppers notion of the Pygmalion effect in engravings of sculpture, it considers how the statuary may have fuelled the operatic imagination: first, as a repertory of historical and mythological characters; second, as an integral element of stage design and essential props used to an aura of the antique; finally, as latent dancers with the unexpected power to come to life and dance the myth of Venice. In so doing the dancing statues embody Seicento notions about sculptures inherently lifelike nature and performativity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-319
Number of pages16
JournalArt History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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