Teatro all'antica

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View from the stage towards the gallery above the seating area. Teatro Olimpico Sabbioneta - Galleria o PERGULA -.jpg
View from the stage towards the gallery above the seating area.
The stage of the Teatro all'antica, viewed from the seating area. The perspective scenery is a modern reconstruction of Scamozzi's original work. Sabbioneta Teatro1.jpg
The stage of the Teatro all'antica, viewed from the seating area. The perspective scenery is a modern reconstruction of Scamozzi's original work.
Vincenzo Scamozzi's elevation (top) and floor plan (below) for the Teatro all'antica. Teatro Sabbioneta Scamozzi.jpg
Vincenzo Scamozzi's elevation (top) and floor plan (below) for the Teatro all'antica.

The Teatro all'antica ("Theater in the style of the ancients") is a theatre in Sabbioneta, northern Italy; it was the first free-standing, purpose-built theater in the modern world. The Teatro all'antica is the second-oldest surviving indoor theater in the world (after the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza), and is, along with that theater and the Teatro Farnese in Parma, one of only three Renaissance theaters still in existence. [1]

Sabbioneta Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Sabbioneta is a town and comune in the province of Mantua, Lombardy region, Northern Italy. It is situated about 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of Parma, not far from the northern bank of the Po River. It was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 2008.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.

Teatro Olimpico theatre in Vicenza, Italy

The Teatro Olimpico is a theatre in Vicenza, northern Italy, constructed in 1580-1585. The theatre was the final design by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and was not completed until after his death. The trompe-l'œil onstage scenery, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, to give the appearance of long streets receding to a distant horizon, was installed in 1585 for the very first performance held in the theatre, and is the oldest surviving stage set still in existence. The full Roman-style scaenae frons back screen across the stage is made from wood and stucco imitating marble. It was the home of the Accademia Olimpica, which was founded there in 1555.


The theater was constructed in 1588 and 1590 by the celebrated Vicentine architect Vincenzo Scamozzi under a commission from Duke Vespasiano I Gonzaga, as part of Gonzaga's effort to turn his tiny Ducal seat into an idealized classical city. [2] The importance that theater had come to hold, as a sign of the civilized society that the Duke was trying to create, is indicated by the prestigious location that was reserved for the theater in the principal street of the town, the Via Giulia, and by the fact that a separate building was erected to hold the theater. This prestige location had a cost, however, in the form of a cramped and narrow setting that could be successfully converted into a theater only by the considerable ingenuity of one of the Renaissance's most gifted architects.

Vincenzo Scamozzi Italian architect

Vincenzo Scamozzi was an Italian architect and a writer on architecture, active mainly in Vicenza and Republic of Venice area in the second half of the 16th century. He was perhaps the most important figure there between Andrea Palladio, whose unfinished projects he inherited at Palladio's death in 1580, and Baldassarre Longhena, Scamozzi's only pupil.

Vespasiano I Gonzaga Italian noble and diplomat

Vespasiano I Gonzaga was an Italian nobleman, diplomat, writer, military engineer and condottiero. He is remembered as a patron of the arts and the founder of Sabbioneta, a town in Lombardy designed according to the Renaissance principles of the "ideal city".

The influence of the Teatro Olimpico upon the Teatro all'antica is evident in a number of features—most notably in the colonnade at the rear of the seating area and in the set designs. Such influences are to be expected; Scamozzi had overseen the construction of the Teatro Olimpico following the death of the great Andrea Palladio, who had laid out its original design. In particular, Scamozzi had been responsible for the remarkable perspectives which form the onstage scenery at the Teatro Olimpico.

Andrea Palladio Italian architect

Andrea Palladio was an Italian architect active in the Venetian Republic. Palladio, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily by Vitruvius, is widely considered to be one of the most influential individuals in the history of architecture. All of his buildings are located in what was the Venetian Republic, but his teachings, summarized in the architectural treatise, The Four Books of Architecture, gained him wide recognition.

However, the Teatro all'antica was a much different theater, in part because of the different building in which it was placed, and in part because Scamozzi had learned important lessons as a result of his labours at the earlier theater. The theater building is roughly three times as long as it is wide, whereas the space occupied by the Teatro Olimpico is approximately square. The longer, narrower structure of the theater building meant that Scamozzi was unable to build the seating area in the form of the semicircle that had been seen by Palladio as the ideal form for an audience, based on the model of ancient Roman theaters. Where the wide, shallow space available in the converted building that was used to house the Teatro Olimpico had forced Palladio to stretch the ideal semicircle into an ellipse, the opposite change was forced upon Scamozzi in Sabbioneta, and the seating area was transformed into a horseshoe.

As well, Scamozzi abandoned completely the elaborate and classically inspired scaenae frons that in many ways is the defining feature of the Teatro Olimpico. The removal of this rigid stage backdrop, which had forced him to build seven separate street scenes in order that all audience members could see at least one part of the scenery, made it possible to construct a single perspective view of a single street scene. Scamozzi's plans for this trompe l'oeil scenery are clearly visible in the upper-right corner of his plans for the theater. The illusion of great distance was achieved by rapidly diminishing the size of the false-front buildings over a compressed distance. As an integral part of the illusion, the floor level rose rapidly to allow the buildings to shrink vertically, and the two sides of the street closed in on each other sharply. These two features of the set design can be seen, respectively, on the upper right-hand side and lower right-hand side of Scamozzi's plans. Given the narrowness of the seating area, a single perspective was sufficient for all audience members.

Scaenae frons

The scaenae frons is the elaborately decorated permanent architectural background of a Roman theatre stage. Normally there are three entrances to the stage including a grand central entrance, known as the porta regia or "royal door". The form may have been intended to resemble the facades of imperial palaces. The scaenae frons is often two and sometimes three stories in height and was central to the theatre's visual impact for this was what was seen by a Roman audience at all times. Tiers or balconies were supported by an exuberant display of columns, normally in the Corinthian order, often originally including many statues in niches.

In the 17th century, Scamozzi's original scenery was removed and replaced by a new system with sliding wings. [3] However, his original plans—which are shown above—were preserved in the archives at the Uffizi in Florence, making it possible, in the twentieth century, for new scenery to be rebuilt based on the original plans and added to the theater.

Uffizi Art museum, Design/Textile Museum, Historic site in Florence, Italy

The Uffizi Gallery is a prominent art museum located adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria in the Historic Centre of Florence in the region of Tuscany, Italy. One of the most important Italian museums and the most visited, it is also one of the largest and best known in the world and holds a collection of priceless works, particularly from the period of the Italian Renaissance.

This scale model of the Teatro all'antica is located inside the theater. Teatro Olimpico - modellino -.jpg
This scale model of the Teatro all'antica is located inside the theater.


  1. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner writes that permanent theatres were first constructed in Ferrara (1531), Rome (1545), Mantua (1549), Bologna (1550), Siena (1561), Venice (1565), and Vicenza (the Teatro Olimpico) in 1580. Of these, only the Teatro Olimpico survives, along with the Teatro All'antica and the Teatro Farnese. See Pevsner’s A History of Building Types. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976, p. 66
  2. See James Laver, Drama--Its Costume and Decor. London: Studio Publications, 1951, pp. 76-77: "It is interesting that [Duke Vespasiano] thought this aim could be furthered by the erection of a theatre in the classical manner."
  3. James Laver, Drama--Its Costume and Decor. London: Studio Publications, 1951, p. 77.

Coordinates: 44°59′56″N10°29′21″E / 44.99889°N 10.48917°E / 44.99889; 10.48917

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

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