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De Architectura

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Important events

(detail)1486 | Publication
The publication and translation of Vitruvius gave rise to many attempts at reconstituting his description of a theatre.
(detail)1511 | Giocondo's reconstruction
Edition by Giovanni Giocondo, printed in Venice.
(detail)1521 | Cesariano's reconstruction
Cesare di Lorenzo Cesariano translated the book into Italian with his reconstructions of the Vitruvius description. Cesariano's reconstruction of a Roman theatre was based on the description by Vitruvius. The exterior is roughly correct: a semi-circle of three storeys with open arches. But Cesariano imagined the interior to be divided into parterre and galleries, as in the courtyards that he probably knew in Italy.
(detail)1545 | Serlio's reconstruction
Seven Books on Architecture, Book II. "On Perspective" by Sebastiano Serlio deals with Roman architecture and perspective, and contains three theatrical scenes (comic, tragic, and satiric) and a stage plan and cross section which were highly influential in Renaissance theatre.
(detail)50. 's 16. century | Barbaro's reconstruction

(1556) An Italian translation with extended commentary of Vitruvius' Ten Books of Architecture, published as Dieci libri dell'architettura di M. Vitruvio. The work was dedicated to Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este, patron of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli.

 

(1567) He later published a Latin edition entitled M. Vitruvii de architectura. The original illustrations of Vitruvius' work have not survived, and Barbaro's illustrations were done specially by Andrea Palladio. As well as being important as a discussion of architecture, Barbaro's commentary was a contribution to the field of aesthetics in general. El Greco, for example, owned a copy. Earlier translations had been made, by Fra Giovanni and Como, but this work was considered the most accurate version to date. Barbaro clearly explained some of the more technical sections and discussed the relationship between nature and architecture, though he also acknowledged the way Palladio's theoretical and archeological expertise contributed to the work.

IN: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniele_Barbaro


People

(detail)Sebastiano Serlio |other

Italian painter and architect who, after working for many years on theatrical problems, Published a treatise on architecture, De architettura, of which Part II, dealing with perspective in the theatre, appeared in 1545. An English translation, The Second Book of Architecture, was published in 1611. Much of it was based on 'he notes and drawings made by Peruzzi study of the works of Vitruvius. Serlio, who had in mind temporary theatres set up in princely or ducal banqueting-halls, described and illustrated in his book three basic permanent sets— the tragic, the comic, and the satyric— which, with their symmetrical arrangement of houses or trees in perspective on either side of a central avenue, had an immense influence on scene design everywhere. They survived the introduction of the scena d'angolo, or diagonal perspective, by the Bibienas, and traces of them can still be seen in the scenery of nineteenth-century melodrama. One section of Serlio's book deals with lighting and with the artificial imitation of such natural phenomena as sunshine and moonlight.

 

IN: Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. The concise Oxford companion to the theatre. 1st ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.   ISBN 0-19-281102-9. p. 489

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(detail)Marcus Vitruvius |other

Roman author of a treatise in ten books, De Architectura, of which Book V deals with theatre construction, illustrated by diagrams. Discovered in manuscript at St. Gallen in 1414, this was printed in 1484. The first edition with illustrations was published in 1511, and an Italian translation appeared in 1531. This work had a great influence on the building of Renaissance theatres, and from it the new generation of theatre designers took—though not always accurately—the idea of such devices as the periaktoi, and in general the proportions and acoustic properties of the later Hellenistic and Roman theatres. 

 

IN: Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. The concise Oxford companion to the theatre. 1st ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.   ISBN 0-19-281102-9. p. 581-582 

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History

 

“ We are well informed about Roman theatres from about the beginning of the Christian era onwards. Not only do dozens of them survive in moderately good preservation all over the Empire, but we also have a lengthy description by Vitruvius which, while not always easy to reconcile with the remains on the ground, tells us a great deal which we might not otherwise suspect. Theatres, he says, should be built on solid foundations, on healthy sites, and designed so that everybody has a good view and is able to hear. To aid the acoustics he recommends that bronze jars should be set in niches between the seats to give resonance, according to the laws of harmony. In his rules for the layout of seats and stage Vitruvius is extremely precise and geometrical, obviously giving an ideal prescription rather than describing actual examples, but his account tallies in general with what was actually built.”
IN: Tidworth, Simon : Theatres: An Illustrated History. London 1973 p. 25
 
Vitruvius implies that scenery of an elaborate kind was in use in his day: 'There are three types of scenery, one of which is called tragic, a second comic, the third satyric. Now the subjects of these differ severally from one another. The tragic ones are designed with columns, pediments and statues, and other royal surroundings, the comic have the appearance of private buildings and balconies and projections with windows made to imitate reality, after the fashion of ordinary buildings; the satyric settings are painted with trees, caves, mountains and other country features, designed to imitate landscape.' This is all very circumstantial, but has given rise to extreme perplexity. No trace of such scenery has survived and it is.  
 
In: Tidworth, Simon : Theatres: An Illustrated History. London 1973 p. 31
 

Cesariano's reconstruction of a Roman theatre is based on the description by Vitruvius. The exterior is roughly correct: a semi-circle of three storeys with open arches. But Cesariano imagined the interior to be divided into parterre and galleries, as in the court¬yards that he probably knew in Italy.
 
The publication and translation of Vitruvius gave rise to many attempts at reconstituting his description of a theatre— Fra Giocondo, Cesariano, Serlio and Barbaro. The idea of actually building such a theatre was therefore very much in the air. Records are too scanty to enable us to decide who first carried it out. A sketch-plan by Antonio da Sangallo, dating from about may be connected with some such scheme. He shows a stage flanked by large periaktoi (captioned machine) and faced by a semi-circular orchestra and teatro. 

 
In: Tidworth, Simon : Theatres: An Illustrated History. London 1973 p. 48

 

 

Author: Simon Tidworth

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