Definition of staffage in English:



mass noun
  • Accessory items in a painting, especially figures or animals in a landscape picture.

    • ‘Here, museum officials watch expectantly as a cow examines a recently acquired landscape painting with bovine staffage.’
    • ‘Except for some staffage across the valley floor, the remainder of the vista corresponds to the etching with excruciating fidelity, with one notable exception.’
    • ‘Instead, he resorted to artistic licence as regards scale, spatial relationships and the introduction of staffage.’
    • ‘The original canvas sets Burns much more in the centre of things and reduces Scott, if he's really there at all, to staffage, one of the seated figures who accentuate the poet's height and presence by their passivity.’
    • ‘Moreover, if the staffage reminds us of the kinds of figures found in his earlier work, they do also represent the people who worked on the Thames barges.’


Late 19th century from German, from staffieren ‘decorate’, perhaps from Old French estoffer, from estoffe ‘stuff’.