Italian Renaissance Scenery (Genga, Peruzzi and Aristotile)

by Cody


The Wonders of Perspective Scenery (71 Nagler):

            1513 --> first performance of Cardinal Bernardo Bibbiena's comedy La Calandria, for which Girolamo Genga (1476-1551) designed the perspective scenery.

            Baldassare Castiglione (a director of the production) described Genga's scenery in a letter as "a very beautiful city, with streets, palaces, churches, and towers. The streets looked as if they were real, and everything was done in relief, and made even more striking through the art of painting and well-conceived perspective."

            Extremely elaborate and detailed; Castiglione describes a temple onstage as "so well finished that it seems hardly possible that it could have been built in four months." The temple alone contained stucco, "beautiful historical pictures", parts that convincingly portrayed alabaster, "fine gold", "genuine gems", marble, etc.

            Overall staging: temple (described above) roughly in the middle, which is surrounded by pillars and statues. On one side of the stage (not specified), there is an "arch of triumph". Between the arch and the temple, there is an elaborate painting that looks as if it is carved out of marble. Two "Victories" (statues holding trophies) are in the niches above the pillars that support the arch, and there is another, "beautiful equestrian" (rider on horseback) depicting a warrior wounding an enemy, which is sandwiched between two small burning altars.


Peruzzi designs for the Pope (72):

            1514 --> the Calandria was performed in Rome for Pope Leo X (and high-status guests), for which Baldassare Peruzzi (1481-1537) designed the scenery.

            Comedy had "fallen into disuse", so scenery had been "consequently neglected" prior to Peruzzi, which Vasari says (in a letter)  he "deserved the more praise" for.

            Vasari says it is "wonderful how, in the narrow space, he depicted his streets, [etc.] make them appear to be what they represent." He also says that Peruzzi made great use of lighting (and "all the other necessary things") to further enhance perspective.

            Peruzzi appears to have been quite a visionary and pioneer, as Vasari concludes his letter by saying that "these comedies...when performed with all of their accessories, surpass all other spectacular displays in magnificence."


Scenery for the Medicean Court:

            1539 --> Aristotile ("Sebastiano, called Aristotile da San Gallo" (1482-1551)) "was put in charge of the scenery for the performance of Landi's comedy, Il commodo" at the Medicean Court in Florence.

            Vasari describes (again in a letter) Aristotile's scenery (representing Pisa) for the play by saying that "it would be impossible to assemble a greater variety of windows, doors, facades of palaces, streets and receding distances, all in perspective." He very realistically depicted the leaning tower, "the cupola", the "round Church of S. Giovanni", and "other things of the city".

            Vasari also describes "an ingenious wooden lantern like an arch behind the buildings", but perhaps most interesting is the 2-foot high sun made of a "crystal ball filled with distilled water, with two [lit] torches behind, illuminating the sky of the scenery and the perspective, so that it looked like a veritable sun." The sun was even on a windlass (like a pulley) so that it actually rose and set during the play.










Extra Sources:


"Scripts and Scenarios: The Performance of Comedy in Renaissance Italy" by Richard Andrews (partially available on, page 110 talks about Aristotile/Aristotle and his scenery)


"Perspective in Perspective" by Lawrence Wright (also partially available on, pages 114/115 talk about Peruzzi's perspective scenery)