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Italian, North, The Interior of a Theatre

Key facts
Full title The Interior of a Theatre
Artist Italian, North
Date made first half of the 18th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 104.8 × 112.4 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG936
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Interior of a Theatre
Italian, North

This painting is more likely to be an imaginary scene than a view of a theatre that actually existed. It may have been inspired by stage designs by the Bibiena family from Bologna, who were known for their highly ornate sets produced for festivities at many European courts, especially the Hapsburg court.

The extremely splendid and spacious stage is lined with statues on tall plinths, which appear to represent classical gods. The proscenium arch is decorated with two reliefs of Apollo flaying Marsyas and Pan pursuing Syrinx. At the top of the arch are two blank joined cartouches surmounted by a crown, appropriate for the coat of arms of a prince of the Holy Roman Empire.

The performance being played out has sometimes been identified as Othello because of the presence of a Moor centre stage, but it is more likely to be an Italian opera. The costumes of the audience suggest that the painting was made in the first half of the eighteenth century.

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