George Méliès’ L’Artiste et le Mannequin1 is a little comic film about imposture and disorder. The premise is simple: an artist’s assistant and an artist’s model conspire to play a prank on a ‘heroic’ painter (Méliès himself) by secretly substituting an artist's mannequin with a living model. In a burlesque of the life studio, the artist wears a ludicrously oversized beard, inhabits a posh interior and dresses his studio mannequin, or ‘lay figure’, in neoclassical costume. Lay figures were regular fixtures in artists’ studios until the latter half of the nineteenth century, but, by the time Méliès made his film, they were tokens of a dusty and antiquated academicism. When Méliès turns his back on the lay figure, the model, wearing identical neoclassical garb, makes a clandestine switch and swats the squatting artist in the ass with a broom, sending him reeling into his easel and painting. She quickly switches back before the artist retaliates. He attacks the lay figure, believing it has come to life, and destroys his studio in the final punchline. The gag disrupts the serious, regimented and absurd contemplation intended between artist and puppet. Puppet ontologies are seeded by impertinence, quasi-animation, ferocity, destabilisation and ambiguity. They estrange and mystify the studio encounter. Méliès may have fallen into the regressive trap of equating model and mannequin, but the complexities of the model’s status, subjectivity and activity burn through such narrow notions, and the complication of puppets upsets conventional studio schemes. When puppets are invited (or pummelled) off the dais to make drawings, the life studio adapts.