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Scenography relates to the study and practice of performance design.[1]


In what is not the first use of the term, Antonio Caimi in 1862, describes a category of artists practising pittura scenica e l'architettura teatrale, inspired by the artists Ferdinando Galli-Bibiena, who was also known as a painter quadratura or architectural painting (usually trompe-l'œil depictions of architecture on ceilings or walls). Caimi also calls this Arte scenografica, and notes that it required ingenious engineering to create movable sets, or create illusions of environments. The Galli da Bibiena family was a pedigree of scenographic artistry that emerged in late seventeenth century Bologna, but spread throughout Northern Italy, to Austria and Germany. Another large family known for theatrical scenography were members of the Quaglio surname.

Caimi goes on to mention practitioners of scenography in the second half of the 18th century and early 19th century in Lombardy, included: Bernardino Galliari, Gaspare Galliari, Pasquale Canna, Pietro Gonzaga, Paolo Landriani, Giovanni Perego, Alessandro Sanquirico, Bomenico Menozzi, Carlo Fontana, Baldassare Cavallotti, Carlo Ferrari, Filippo Peroni, Carlo Ferrario, Enrico Rovecchi, Angelo Moja, Luigi Vimercati, and the brothers Mofta of Modena among others.[2] A review of the history of Italian-influenced scenic painting, architecture, and design up to the nineteenth century was provided by Landriani.[3]


While also aligned with the professional practice of the scenographer, it is important to distinguish the individual elements that comprise the 'design' of a performance event (such as light, environment, costume, etc.) from the term 'scenography' which is an artistic perspective concerning the visual, experiential and spatial composition of performance. Influenced by the work of Modernist pioneers Adolphe Appia and Edward Gordon Craig, scenography proposes that design practices within performance are considered an equal partner, alongside other elements such as literary texts and performance technique, within the construction and reception of meaning. The practice of scenography is thereby a holistic approach to the composition of performance and can be applied to the design or curation of events within, and outside, of the conventional theatre environment. Or as Pamela Howard states in her book What is Scenography?:

"Scenography is the seamless synthesis of space, text, research, art, actors, directors and spectators that contributes to an original creation." [4]

Joslin McKinney and Philip Butterworth expand upon this to suggest that:

"Scenography is not simply concerned with creating and presenting images to an audience; it is concerned with audience reception and engagement. It is a sensory as well as an intellectual experience, emotional as well as rational." [5]

Etymology and cultural interpretations[edit]

The term scenography is of Greek origin (skēnē, meaning 'stage or scene building'; grapho, meaning 'to describe') originally detailed within Aristotle's Poetics as 'skenographia'. Nevertheless, within continental Europe the term has been closely aligned with the professional practice of scénographie and is synonymous with the English language term 'theatre design'. More recently, the term has been used in museography with regards the curation of museum exhibits.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Walker, John (1992) "Scenography". Glossary of Art, Architecture & Design since 1945, 3rd. ed.
  2. ^ Caimi, Antonio (1862). Delle arti del designo e degli artisti nelle provincie di Lombardia dal 1777-1862. Milan, Italy: Presso Luigi di Giacomo Pirola. pp. 112–118.
  3. ^ Landriani, Paolo (1830). Dottore Giulio Ferrario, ed. Storia e Descrizione de' Principali Teatri Antichi e Moderni. Tipografia del Dottor Giulio Ferrario, Contrada del Bocchetto N. 2465.
  4. ^ Howard, Pamela (2002). What is Scenography?. London: Routledge. p. 130.
  5. ^ McKinney, Joslin (2009). The Cambridge Introduction to Scenography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 4.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Aronson, A. (2005) Looking into the Abyss: Essays on Scenography, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
  • Aronson, A. (2018) The History and Theory of Environmental Scenography, (Revised 2nd edition) London: Bloomsbury Methuen
  • Aronson, A.(2018) The Routledge Companion to Scenography, London: Routledge
  • Baugh, C. (2013) Theatre, Performance, and Technology: The Development and Transformation of Scenography, (Revised 2nd edition) Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Beacham, R. C. (1994) Adolphe Appia: Artist and Visionary of the Modern Theatre, Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers
  • Brockett, O. G., Mitchell, M. and Hardberger, L. (2010) Making the Scene: A History of Stage Design and Technology in Europe and the United States, Austin (TX): University of Texas Press
  • Craig, E. G. (1911) Towards a New Theatre, London: Heinemann. [Reprinted in 1962, London: Mercury Books]
  • Hann, R. (2017) Beyond Scenography, London: Routledge
  • Hannah, D. and Harsløf, O. eds. (2008) Performance Design, Nijalsgade, Denmark: Museum Tusculanum Press
  • Howard, P. (2002) What is Scenography?, London: Routledge [Second Edition 2009]
  • McAuley, G. (1999) Space in Performance: Making Meaning in the Theatre, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
  • McKinney, J. and Butterworth, P. (2009) The Cambridge Introduction to Scenography, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • McKinney, J. and Palmer, S. (2017) Scenography Expanded: An Introduction to Contemporary Performance Design, London: Bloomsbury Methuen
  • Svoboda, J. and Burian, J. ed. (1993) The Secret of Theatrical Space, New York: Applause Theatre Books


External links[edit]