Theater Design, Possibly The Triumph of Hannibal

Louis Jean Desprez French

Not on view

Originally trained as an architect, Desprez is best known for his drawings for the abbé de Saint Non’s Voyage pittoresque de Naples et de Sicile (1781-86), and from 1784 on, his theater designs for the Gustav III’s opera house in Stockholm. This sheet may have originally been part of a sketchbook and can, in any case, be considered as part of a group of sketches of similar dimensions, executed in the same media, and all lightly squared. The majority of such drawings are conserved at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden. The subjects of these sketches often feature classical architecture either observed in or inspired by the environs of Rome, southern Italy, or Sicily, with figures enacting imagined historical events.

This drawing appears to represent an ancient theater in a style influenced by the many ruins Desprez studied during his travels across southern Italy and Sicily that he undertook with Dominique-Vivant Denon, Claude-Louis Châtelet and Jean-Augustin Renard in 1777. It depicts an amphitheater on a rocky hillside filled with figures in classical dress. Crowds are gathered around a seated figure who is wheeled in from the left on a platform pulled by a horse. The fluid penwork and squaring in black chalk indicate that the sheet was a première pensée, and indeed the design became the basis for a large and ambitious drawing executed in watercolor and gouache, today in the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montréal. The drawing in Montréal was published in 1993 with the title The Triumph of Hannibal and may have been intended as a stage design for Gustav III in Sweden.

Perrin Stein with research by Cabelle Ahn (December 2017)

Theater Design, Possibly The Triumph of Hannibal, Louis Jean Desprez (French, Auxerre 1743–1804 Stockholm), Pen and ink, brush and brown wash, squared in black chalk

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