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3DVisA Index of 3D Projects: Theatre Studies

Inigo Jones's Perspective Stage

Keywords: architecture, theatre, Inigo Jones, CAD.

This is one of a number of architectural studies supported by 3D computer visualisation, undertaken at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Architecture (CASA), University of Bath, UK.

Staged masques were a popular form of entertainment in Stuart England. It was a distinctively English genre combining music, drama, dance and art, whose most notable creator was Ben Jonson (1572-1637). In 1605 he started to collaborate with the architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652) and over the next quarter of a century, until they fell out in 1630, together they turned masques into virtuoso allegorical performances staged with a baroque pomp. Temporary theatres were raised for such occasions at the royal court and stately homes. For architects this was an opportunity to experiment with novel designs. Jones built such a temporary stage in London within the Banqueting House, Whitehall (1619-22). He adapted for this purpose a design by the Italian architect, Sebastian Serlio (1475c.1554 ), thus introducing to England a type of perspective proscenium stage not used before. The appearance of the Whitehall stage is known today from drawings by Jones's assistant, John Webb. They include plans, sections and sketches of stage sets for the 1640 production of the masque Salmacida Spolia (Salmacian Spoils) by Inigo Jones and William Davenant. There is also other contemporary iconographic and textual evidence, and comparative material notably includes Serlio's drawings which use a scale of four feet to the inch, the same as Webb's plans.

This project was led by architectural historian Vaughan Hart and supported his research leading to the publication of the book, Art and Magic in the Court of the Stuarts (Routledge, 1994). Computer visualisation was concerned with the original design and its interpretation in the light of earlier studies on the subject. Earlier researchers had analysed the geometry and spatial relationships of the historical drawings, but the computer model constructed on their basis made it possible for the first time to assess how accurate the earlier finding were. The computer also aided visualisation of the painted decoration of side shutters placed on the stage to construct the perspective of the illusionary receding space. The surviving drawings provide evidence for such decoration; they were scanned and applied onto a CAD model of the stage. The virtual scene enabled the analysis of the architecture (perspective, vanishing and viewing points), decoration and lighting, and possible movement of actors and the use of mechanical props.

Project dates: Completed 1993.

Resource status: Unknown.

Contributors: The project was led by Vaughan Hart; modelling by Joseph Robson, Centre for Advanced Studies in Architecture (CASA), University of Bath.

Sources and further details:

CASA website: Completed projects.

Hart, V. and Robson, J. (1996), 'A Computer Model of Inigo Jones's Perspective Stage', Computers and the History of Art, 6.1, pp. 21-27.

Related projects:

Record compiled by Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, 11 September 2006.

3DVisA gratefully acknowledges the help of Professor Vaughan Hart with preparation of this record.

CASA and 3DVisA, 2006.

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