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THEATRE AND TABLEAUX VIVANTS

J. Rustem created decorations and costumes for amateur theatres. He contributed to professional theatre in Vilnius from 1810 and was a member of the Theatre Directorate established in 1816, with responsibility for anything related to staging the performance. He created costumes and decorations and supervised the other artists’ work.

As a professor of Vilnius University and a famous artist of the city, J. Rustem participated in creating decorations for official events. His best-known work for such an event was a decoration for the Academy gates, which he created in 1801 on the order of Vilnius University Council to mark the coronation of Tsar Alexander I. The artist painted a banner that was installed in the special arch of the Doric portico built for the event. It included the figure of a woman that symbolised the Academy, captured when putting a laurel garland on an altar with the Tsar’s bust.

J. Rustem used ancient forms and mythological symbols in decorations for more familiar and domestic family celebrations. In letters to Felix Weiss he described a few “surprises” created at Pisani's estate in Puškos, where columns adorned with garlands were built and vases, an altar and fabulous illuminations were installed.

Stage presentations called “tableaux vivants” were one-off events. When one was arranged on 28th of April 1825 for the Charitable Society, and seven compositions of “Arthemis” after “Jerusalem Freed” by Torquato Tasso were performed, Kurjer Litewski wrote: “Arthemis“ is an absolutely new idea and it is difficult to find a name for it. It is a kind of serene ballet and opera without arias [...]. Thanks to professor J. Rustem, who was busy with the composition of scenes, mimes, costumes meeting time requirements, aesthetics and science, everything was implemented masterfully and realistically [...]. What variety of poses, veracity and expression of each hero’s gestures. How perfectly the individuals grouped! [...]. The figures are so different and eloquent [...]. Why did nobody among the younger painters make copies of these compositions?”