Marilyn Monroe Living Statue

Living Statues in Cincinnati, OH are a unique form of art that we see as street performers or as an interesting visual at corporate events and parties. This is not what Living Statues have always done, or how they started…their history is pretty awesome!

We like to think that Living Statues started in Ancient Greece with sculptors using models for their marble works of art. Whether that is true or not, the traditional origin of Living Statues is agreed by historians to have started during the Renaissance. Royalty used Living Statues in parades, and for pageantry for big events in the Court. 

In the Renaissance era, they used Living Statues in an art form called “Tableaux Vivants”, which is French for “Living Picture”. This is where performers would dress, paint themselves, and remain still for hours at a time, so guests could visualize paintings. These performers and backgrounds would be on a large platform and displayed throughout the night in a beautiful spectacle. 

Tableaux Vivants were also used in the Victorian era, but in two very different ways. Nativity scenes were a popular version of Tableaux Vivants and Living Statues in the US and UK, and it is actually still used to this day! Not surprisingly, the Circus ran into this trend starting in 1840 with none other than PT Barnum. He used them often, and the crowds were amazed at the uncanny resemblance to real stone or paint. Olga Desmond, a beautiful Londoner mesmerized and shocked audiences with her Living Statue performances because…you guessed it; she did them nude.

1940’s London was no stranger to Living Statues either. Another woman named Mrs Henderson included nudity in her live artistic performances. She started directing Tableaux Vivant shows, and she discovered that this was a loophole in the law that prevented artists from performing “publicly nude”, and she took advantage of it.

Fast forward to 1960. The trend found its way on screen in many films, most notably: The Phantom of The Opera. In the mid 2000’s, the popular TV show, Gilmore Girls had an entire episode dedicated to Tableaux Vivant, with the two main characters; Rory and Lorelai, posing as works of art in front of the entire town of Stars Hollow. 

Living Statue Festivals are enjoyed all over the world from, The World Statue Festival in Germany (established in 1996) to, The International Festival of Living Statues in Romania (established in 2011).

Dave Meets His First Living Statue

The Cincinnati Circus Company has a history with Living Statues as well. Our Owner Dave, met a Living Statue in Toronto in the early 90’s, and his name was Michael Carl O’Neil. Mr O’Neil was performing as a WW1 British Canadian Soldier. He had created an entire atmosphere that projected remembrance, honor, and beauty. He did this with his authentic costume, solemn facial expression, music, and fenced “memorial” that surrounded him.

This scene was very emotional, and you could see the performance resonating in the faces of the crowd. One woman placed a rose in the “memorial”; the performer smelled it, causing many who were watching to tear up. When the performance was over, Dave had a chance to speak with him and ask him questions.

He asked him why he used the chains around the memorial (thinking it was for the protection of the performer), and Mr O’Neil stated that it helped witnesses come as close as they want,  feel safe, and really have the chance to take in the scene. People notice statues, and many times wish the statue could come back to life, and this way…the statue really can be a Living Statue!

Dave Brings Living Statues To Cincinnati

Dave decided to bring this trend to the Cincinnati market in the early 90’s when he returned from the trip. He wanted to try and replicate the WW1 performance, but the uniforms were too small for our performers! Funnily enough, so were the uniforms from WW2! So they decided to debut Living Statues in Cincinnati, using an authentic Vietnam War uniform and performing on Memorial Day. He used a performer who was in ROTC, and made sure that everyone felt like this was honorable and special. 

When the performance was over, a Vietnam Veteran approached Dave and the Living Statue performer and said, “ I had a really hard time looking at him. That’s exactly how we looked.” This was exactly what they wanted…an authentic replication for remembrance. 

Acts like these have transitioned to street performances in high-traffic, tourist areas with the artists “busking”, or, “working for tips”. You’ll see these Living Statues in New York City, London, Edinburgh, and you can even hire one here in Cincinnati! Living Statues are currently used in Corporate Events, and all types of parties as the “wow factor” for guests. The Cincinnati Circus Company now has over 50 Living Statue Acts, and we do these performances all over the Tri-State and beyond!

Cincinnati Circus Company can provide Living Statues for any event so you can see them in real life! Call us at 513 921 5454 or email at 


Sources: Wikipedia &

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