Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Marzipan Macabre - Szabó Marzipan Musuem, Szentandre

Yoinks, indeed. Scooby and Shaggy rendered in marzipan.

Wax museums occupy a particularly sinister place in our culture - one exploited by horror movies since the 1930s. It's that 'uncanny valley' feeling. They look unsettlingly human, but  we know it's just a carved mannequin. Something about the wax gives them an organic sheen, like perspiration, that marble or clay sculptures don't have. Or maybe it's the way they stare?
So... What could be more spooky than a museum full of wax dummies? How about a museum full of marzipan dummies?

A confectionery rendition of the Hungarian Parliament.

The Szabó Marzipan Museum in Szentandre is definitely impressive, a testament to the astonishing confectionery-sculptural skills of the people who work here. It's also a bit of a horror show when those skills are applied to dead celebrities. 

Busts of Hungarian nobility and fairytale tableaux we can marvel at, because we don't know what these people and places looked like in reality. The detail is astonishing, the craftsmanship indisputable.

What would Waldorf and Statler have said about this...?

The Disney/Hanna-Barbera characters are also mostly well-wrought. But that's where something doesn't seem quite right. The characters may be cartoons or puppets, but we know these bright smiley faces. When rendered accurately it is a bit disturbing to see familiar faces manifested in almond-sugar. When they aren't, there's a whiff of nightmare...

Marzipan Bam-Bam wonders: "What have you done with my parents?"

The exhibition is book-ended by the two most ambitious and also unsettling figures. First, Princess Diana, that faux-shy smile turned into a marzipan rictus, her nose... ahem. But her hair is spot on - in real life it always had that 80s 'frosted' texture, so it works when rendered in strands of sugar.

Like she's in the room... Princess Diana, in marzipan.

Then, to see us out... Michael Jackson. There's layers to the weirdness here. The man himself always felt an affinity with Pinocchio, and it was by his own design that for the last decade of his life he looked a bit like a doll come to life. Wax dummies of Michael Jackson always look odd because their surfaces seem more lustrous than his actual flesh did. How do you carve from wax someone who already looks like a human waxwork?

The wet-look vest really doesn't help. But check out the glove-studs...

In that respect, the marzipan mannequin here succeeds: maybe it is apt that the most life-like dummy of the King of Pop is one made entirely from sugar? Sweet dreams....

Beasts of the Marziopene Period.

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