Thursday, November 15, 2007


Marcel Marceau died recently at the age of 84 and it seemed to me that his life had come full circle. He had actually completed the 4th stage of his famous mime entitled, “The Four Stages of Human Life”. That is the performance where he is first highlighted in the fetal position and then evolves from “youth” to “maturity” to “old age” and then slowly diminishes until he is once again in the fetal position…and that is the 4th stage, “Death”.

That particular “silent play” has stuck with me over the years and I remembered it often when I was in Italy. Almost every city that we visited had their share of street performers. Some of them were actors playing out tableau's like in the picture above. They were mimes who dressed as famous Italian artists and they were great tourist attractions. That is not me in the picture but I did take it. It shows a member of the audience who paid well for her short moment of fame.

The ones that truly fascinated me, however, were the “silent statues”. These were mime artists, either bronzed or white washed, who would pose like a statue, often for hours on end. It is an art that requires a great deal of patience and physical stamina.

Piazza della Signoria of Florence, Italy, has been the political center for centuries and is the entrance to the square where the famous Uffizi Gallery is located and where there are numerous statues. It is also the place where I had one of my eeriest experiences.

It had been a long day and Douglas and I were very happy to sit for a bit, enjoy a gelato and watch the street performers and the artists. It was also the day that I bought a small artist’s rendition of the famous Brunelleschi's Dome. I had just paid for this and was wandering along admiring the statues when I had a strange feeling that someone was staring at me.

I turned back to the statue that I had just admired and had the strong sensation that it wasn’t in the same position that it had been before. I concentrated for a good ten minutes on this statue alone and was just about to move on when, lo and behold, the darn thing winked at me !

I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so surprised. I would have sworn that the statue was was that convincing. I ran off to get Douglas but he wasn’t anywhere near as impressed as I had been. When I asked him how he could be so sure that it was a performer and not a real statue he said, “You see that little box at the base of the statue...the one with the slit in the top? That’s for tips and it’s a sure fire sign that it’s a performer.!”

“Oh, well”, I thought, as I slipped a Euro or two into the box, “I can always say I got winked at in Italy...even though I had to pay for it!”


Blogger kenju said...

You bring back good memories for me! Last year when we were in Florence, I saw several of these living statues, in the same place you saw them. I was amazed that they would costume themselves like that and stand so still for hours.

I never discovered the box with the slit, though.....LOL

5:42 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I have seen one or two such performers in our Byward Market in summer, but it's not a common thing here.

6:54 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

I enjoyed this story very much, I think it would be wonderful to see such performers. I know, from playing "statues" with my grandchildren, that holding still for any length of time is a very difficult task. The costuming can't be an easy feat, either.

Glad you got your wink.

2:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They truly are amazing and they're also in Paris. It astounds me how they look SO real and can stand so long without moving. A true art.

5:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are everywhere.
Hold up your camera and they will hold out their hands. :-)

8:47 AM  

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