For nearly a century, beginning in the 1680s, members of three generations of the Bibiena family were the most sought-after theater designers in Europe. Their revolutionary stage designs were used for operas, festivals, and courtly performances across the Continent: from their native Italy to cities as far afield as Vienna, Prague, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Lisbon. The family built more than a dozen theaters—most famously the Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth, Germany— and issued a series of influential publications on perspective drawing and stage design.
Today, the Bibienas’ distinctive style survives above all through their remarkable drawings. These range from quick sketches to elaborate presentation drawings and complex studies of perspective. Many demonstrate the family’s signature invention: the scena per angolo, or “scene viewed at an angle.” Replacing the static symmetry of earlier theater designs, the scena per angolo used multiple vanishing points at the sides of the stage rather than a single one at the center of the backdrop. The resulting sets were of unprecedented monumentality, with an intensity of movement and a complexity of space never previously imagined.
Architecture, Theater, and Fantasy marks the promised gift to the Morgan of twenty-five Bibiena drawings from the collection of Jules Fisher. During a career spanning more than sixty years, Jules has been the lighting designer for over three hundred Broadway and off-Broadway shows and has received an unmatched nine Tony Awards for lighting design. His drawings will find a home alongside more than one hundred Bibiena drawings, and thousands of theater designs, already in the Morgan’s collection.
This online exhibition was created in conjunction with the exhibition Architecture, Theater, and Fantasy: Bibiena Drawings from the Jules Fisher Collection on view May 28 through September 12, 2021.
Architecture, Theater, and Fantasy: Bibiena Drawings from the Jules Fisher Collection is a program of the Morgan Drawing Institute.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, available in the Morgan Shop.