Attributed to Francesco Galli Bibiena

In this characteristic example of the Bibienas’ scena per angolo, the grid of paving stones and the angled brick walls emphasize the orthogonal systems with which Francesco organized the towering prison. The extended and layered space encourages the viewer to envision peering around the corners into implied but unseen spaces. Prisons were frequent settings for eighteenth-century plays, but painted backdrops rarely included figures; this drawing is perhaps a record of a performance, or it could have been a stand-alone drawing meant to showcase the Bibienas’ design principles.

Attributed to Francesco Galli Bibiena (1659–1739)
Prison Courtyard with Figures, ca. 1720
Pen and brown ink, with gray wash, over graphite
Gift of Mrs. Donald M. Oenslager; 1982.75:111