Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Design for a Stage Set

Giuseppe Barberi (Italian, Rome 1746–1809 Rome)
Pen and brown ink, brush with brown, red and blue wash
16-1/8 x 21-3/4 in. (41.0 x 55.2 cm)
Credit Line:
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1961
Accession Number:
Not on view
A prodigious draughtsman, Barberi designed many architectural projects that remained for the most part unexecuted. He was trained as a silversmith under Luigi Valadier, father of the Roman neoclassic architect, Giuseppe Valadier. Many of Barberi's drawings, including this one, were wrongly attributed to the younger Valadier until Berliner showed them to be the innovative products of Barberi's fertile imagination. Most of Barberi's drawings are in the Cooper-Hewitt Museum and the Museo di Roma. They show Barberi to have been one of Rome's important neoclassic designers. Berliner dates our drawing 1770-80.

This lavishly colored stage set exemplifies Barberi's neoclassic style. The view is straight on: the baroque effect of unending space achieved through the Bibiena's scena per angolo is replaced by a clear, carefully defined, enclosed space. Gigantic columns form a frontal screen, behind which a railing reinforces the two-dimensional screen effect. The simplified architectural elements are grandiosely presented on a huge scale. The monumental background is created by a rusticated arcade acting as wings for a simple temple front that consists of a colonnade surmounted by a stepped dome. A chair on a high, stepped platform, suggesting a throne, is at left. Behind it and on the opposite side of the stage are two lions couchant.
Inscription: Annotated on the upper left of the verso in red chalk, Decors de theatre/ Seppia (?); in pencil at the upper right, Valadier.
F. Kleinberger Galleries
Rudolf Berliner "Zeichnungen des römischen Architekten Giuseppe Barberi." in Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunst München. vol. 16, 1965, fig. no. 54, pp. 197, 205, ill.

Mary L. Myers Architectural and Ornament Drawings: Juvarra, Vanvitelli, The Bibiena Family & Other Italian Draughtsmen. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1975, cat. no. 2, fig. no. 2, p. 11, ill.

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