Item #22 [Painted theater or festival decoration]. THEATER DECORATION, / / ANONYMOUS, FESTIVAL DECORATION.
Rare Painted Survival From The Scenography
Of Early Theater Architecture
The Allegorical Figure Of Humilitas
From Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia (1603)
[Italy], [18th century].

[Painted theater or festival decoration].

Paint on paper, backed with linen, with a custom spindle. Some surface wear consistent with age and original use. The measurements of the painting are 91 1/5” x 47 ¾” (232 cm x 121cm).

Intriguing over-life-size painting of a female allegorical sculpture set in an architectural niche, a rare surviving example of a type of ephemeral decoration most closely associated with the scenography of the neoclassical theater and with the (often elaborate) temporary festival structures especially popular in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Skillfully rendered in grisaille so as to imitate statuary, the figure, who holds in her hand an orb and stands upon a crown, is Humilitas, the allegorical representation of self-abasement or self-denial, as depicted in Cesare Ripa’s highly influential Iconologia (1603).

 The motif of freestanding sculpture set within a niche became, of course, a commonplace of classical architecture from the earliest stirrings of the Renaissance, and in a theatrical setting, the use of statuary in the proscenium or scaenae frons of such renowned structures as the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (1584), the Teatro Olimpico in Sabionetta (1588), the Teatro Farnese in Parma (1618), and the Amphitheater at the Boboli Gardens of Florence (1630s) cemented the relationship between this motif and the theater. The present painting is likely a survival from a later (eighteenth century?) production that used fictive imagery to evoke this venerable tradition, but it is difficult to say whether this figure was originally used to fill out the set of a production in an established theater or formed part of an ephemeral façade or some other portion of the macchine so vividly recalled by baroque and later festival books but so rarely encountered in the flesh today.

 * C. Ripa, Iconologia (1603), pp. 214-16; P. Paschinger, Concepts of Humility in Middle High German Religious Literature.

Price: $45,000.00

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