Definition of tableau in English:



  • A group of models or motionless figures representing a scene from a story or from history; a tableau vivant.

    ‘in the first act the action is presented in a series of tableaux’
    • ‘They first spent several days reading and discussing immigrants' stories from children's literature and the students started to create tableaux or frozen scenes of the immigrants' experiences.’
    • ‘The final two tableaux, representing the stigmata and the death of Francis, describe the arduous path of the Christian through suffering to the light of resurrection.’
    • ‘It was one spectacular show, I really enjoyed the opening tableaux and display, showcasing three thousand years of history, the highlights being the drums and the statues.’
    • ‘Lucky for him, all these poor people still have time to line up for several thousand black-and-white shots during which they artfully arrange themselves in striking tableaux and stare into Salles' lens.’
    • ‘Gone were the artificial and outmoded divisions into three or four acts with scene changes and elaborate tableaux.’
    • ‘And as part of this process, the two have conceived, designed and photographed a series of tableaux that aim to rearrange and critically portray stereotypical images of the South Indian woman.’
    • ‘There was earlier magnificence in a series of tableaux showing Australia's ancient and modern history, and then an athletes' entrance full of such warmth that it overran by almost an hour.’
    • ‘The tableau froze, motionless, and the flame of the memorial flickered out, and the stage became dark.’
    • ‘The fourth tableau represents the Roman prison from where St Paul penned his Epistles, his instructions to early Christian communities all over the empire.’
    • ‘An unusual project for the Hamster Theatre Company was a series of tableaux depicting great moments in British history.’
    • ‘Each scene has the feeling of a solemn ceremony or, at times, an historical tableau.’
    • ‘The film is composed of a series of tableaux, with scenes reminiscent of detailed paintings.’
    • ‘Inside, life-size tableaux re-create moments in history, like Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery meeting the native Nez Perce.’
    • ‘Like their cast-mates, both inject a level of interpretation and fluidity into their roles that stops proceedings from degenerating into some wax tableau of recent history.’
    • ‘Rooms on its three floors have been converted into galleries displaying Gandhi's letters, documents, photographs and also tableaux about his life.’
    • ‘The souvenir shops, with their olive wood crucifixes and mother of pearl nativity tableaux, are shuttered.’
    • ‘Even painting, which at first sight would seem to be resistant to digitization, has become absorbed in the process, as artists mimic the look of photography and as photographers create elaborate tableaux.’
    • ‘The two men met in 1941, and had a collaborative relationship for two decades, producing a book, many surrealist portraits and a series of tableaux.’
    • ‘A series of tableaux powerfully suggest the story's underlying violence: Nancy's death blow freezes mid-air, and Oliver's sound thrashings are hidden from view (but not from sound) in a wooden box.’
    • ‘Of the three, Rubens seems least sincere, the most theatrical in the sense that what he is offering could be a tableau set up with models.’
    picture, painting, representation, portrayal, illustration, image
    pageant, tableau vivant, human representation, parade, diorama, scene
    View synonyms


Late 17th century (in the sense ‘picture’, figuratively ‘picturesque description’): from French, literally ‘picture’, diminutive of table (see table).