The Art of Commedia: A Study in the Commedia Dell'Arte 1560-1620 with Special Reference to the Visual Records

The Art of Commedia: A Study in the Commedia Dell'Arte 1560-1620 with Special Reference to the Visual Records

The Art of Commedia: A Study in the Commedia Dell'Arte 1560-1620 with Special Reference to the Visual Records

The Art of Commedia: A Study in the Commedia Dell'Arte 1560-1620 with Special Reference to the Visual Records

Synopsis

Italian comedians attracted audiences to performances at every level, from the magnificent Italian, German and French court festival appearances of Orlando di Lasso or Isabella Andreini, to the humble street trestle lazzi of anonymous quacks. The characters they inspired continue to exercise a profound cultural influence, and an understanding of the commedia dell'arte' and its visual record is fundamental for scholars of post-1550 European drama, literature, art and music. The 340 plates presented here are considered in the light of the rise and spread of commedia' stock types, and especially Harlequin, Zanni and the actresses.

Excerpt

Italian comedians and the characters they inspired profoundly inform and influence European drama and culture. An understanding of the commedia dell'arte and its iconography is essential for specialists, theatre practitioners, and scholars and students of European spectacle, festival, music, literature and art history from the early modern period onwards. Our knowledge of the commedia dell'arte is based on the identification and interpretation of relevant historical documents, visual as well as textual. This study, awarded a doctorate from Oxford University's Faculty of History in 1995, seeks to contribute to the documentary basis on which the commedia dell'arte and its European diffusion are interpreted, by examining ways of researching commedia-related images in an interdisciplinary context. It was written in conjunction with some dozen articles published in widely scattered form during the decade 1987–97, in journals and conference proceedings specializing in art and theatre history, Italian, festival and renaissance studies and musicology. Through their illustrations, numerous pictures uncovered by these researches entered the mainstream of scholarly debate even before 1995. There have been exciting breakthroughs and significant developments in the field during the past decade. As a product of its time, many of this study's assumptions and findings have been supplemented or superseded by subsequent findings on aspects of the commedia dell'arte, theatre iconography, and cultural interchanges between Italy, German-speaking Europe and Britain. It is published as a contribution to the base of images available to scholarship, and with the intention of furthering debate on issues surrounding the iconography of Italian comedians, and European itinerant performers and carnival and festival participants, in the earliest decades of the professional stage.

See bibliography (Katritzky). Several of these articles develop themes peripheral to the
commedia dell'arte.

The plate captions to this study indicate the images included in my pre-1995 publications
(for key to abbreviations, see bibliography, pp.281–2).

The front matter of my 1995 thesis, required by Oxford DPhil regulations, is here replaced
with the present foreword, the original bibliography and indexes with revised end matter,
and the in-text references with footnotes, some reflecting developments postdating the
completion of my doctoral research. These include my own ongoing enquiries into itinerant
mountebanks and performers (see bibliography), which lead me to question some of the

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