Baroque and Romantic Stage Design

Baroque and Romantic Stage Design

Baroque and Romantic Stage Design

Baroque and Romantic Stage Design

Excerpt

During the Renaissance and Baroque most architects designed stage sets as well as buildings. Although they drew with the same colours and brushes in both capacities, they had different aims in mind. In finished and final renderings the architect draws for a purpose beyond his drawing -- to make construction clear to a patron or builder. But the stage designer, who draws to compose a stage picture, follows his fancy undistracted by contingencies. Thus the stage designs in this book show renaissance and baroque architecture as its creators dreamed that it might become if freed from earthly weight, fragility and cost.

Architectural drawings or models have probably been made as long as man has been building anything more complex than mud huts and wattle walls. The Egyptians sketched plans in ink on broad flakes of limestone, and must have needed some sort of schematic drawing or model for the elaborate construction of the pyramids and their adjacent temples.

Greece may have invented the modern architect's distinction of plan, elevation and perspective rendering, since these are called by Greek names in the oldest extant description of architectural drawing. Shortly before Christ the Roman engineer Vitruvius defined today's main types of architectural drawing in good workmanlike terms. A ground plan is made with ruler and compass to describe the area of a building. An elevation is a scale drawing of a proposed façade. A perspective rendering shows "a façade with the sides withdrawing into the background, the lines all meeting in the center of a circle." Since Vitruvius calls this a scenographia, and elsewhere mentions lost Greek treatises on perspective scenery, the Greeks must have had an unsystematic intuition of a single vanishing point when they painted palace façades on the tent (skene) or wood and canvas booth that served the great Athenian dramatists for their actors' background. Architectural drawing was not again to dominate stage scenery until renaissance Italy accepted the text of Vitruvius as the Ten Commandments of architecture.

Mediaeval plays hardly required perspective drawing since they were acted either before existing buildings or before hangings helped out with a few simple properties. Yet the oldest surviving meticulous architectural elevations are a few engravings and pen drawings of late Gothic façades and pinnacles. The clean wire line usually renders neither shadow nor perspective. Indeed the mediaeval architect hardly needed elaborate drawings to explain his ideas to masons who all thoroughly understood one widely accepted and gradually evolving style.

The Renaissance brought changes that called for a consistent, exact method of representing objects in space, so that the Florentines invented mathematical perspective in the early 1400's to create a new tool needed for new kinds of work. To make . . .

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