Perspective on Stage

Perspective on Stage. Optical Knowledge and Theatrical Scenery in the Dresden Court of the Seventeenth Century

Jaime Cuenca

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Johann Oswald Harms, etching of a scene from Ballet von Zusammenkunft und Wirkung der sieben Planeten, 1678.

The field of studies on perspective has experienced a dramatic revival in the last decades, receiving contributions from disciplines as diverse as history of art, history of science, philosophy, and cultural studies. This project intended to make a contribution to this field of research by highlighting the role of leisure practices and contexts in the consumption of perspective, through the exploration of a specific case study. Among all the different applications of perspective in the fine and decorative arts, few of them are more clearly embedded in a distinctive leisure context than the design of theatrical stage sets. During the seventeenth century the perspectival Baroque stage spread through the European courts enabling the rise of very sophisticated aristocratic leisure events, ultimately shaped by the optical knowledge of the time. The project focused on the Saxon court during the reigns of the Electors John George I (1611–56) and John George II (1656–80), which offers a privileged case for studying the interrelation between optical knowledge and the application of perspective on stage in a political context. Data was gathered through the systematic analysis of original sources, such as graphic and textual descriptions of theatrical performances at the Dresden court, as well as contemporary works on perspective and stage design.