collection theater and theater plays

"Isabella d'Este, marchioness of Mantua, 1474-1539; a study of the renaissance (1903)", by Cartwright ... 6_djvu.txt

Theater in Mantua 1501, DESCRIBED BY CANTELMO
One of his favourite courtiers, however, Sigismondo
Cantelmo, the husband of Isabella's intimate friend,
Margherita MarosceUo, accompanied the Marchesa
home, and sent the Duke full accounts of the per-
formances in the magnificent theatre prepared for the
occasion in the Castello. His elaborate descriptions
of this building and allusions to the Triumphs of
Mantegna, with which the stage was decorated, lend
especial interest to the following letter : —

"Most excellent Prince, my dear Lord,— The
arrangements made by this illustrious Lord Marquis
have been most splendid, and deserve to be studied
by aU who wish to erect appropriate theatres for the
performance of ancient and modern plays. I do not
doubt that Your Excellency has already heard of the
representations which have been given. None the
less, I should fail in my duty if I did not write to tell
you what, indeed, requires a better scribe than I am —
all the magnificence, grandeur, and excellence of the
said representations, the beauty of which I will try
to describe as briefly as possible. The stage itself
is quadrangular in form, but somewhat extended in
length. Each side has eight arcades, with columns
well proportioned to the size and height of the arches.
The base and capitals of each pillar are richly painted
with the finest colours and adorned with foliage, and
the arches, with their reliefs of flowers, offer an admir-
able perspective, each being about four braccia wide
and proportionately high, the whole representing
an ancient and eternal temple of rare beauty. The
back of the stage was hung with cloth of gold
and foliage, as required for the recitations, and the
sides were adorned by six paintings of the Triumphs
of Caesar by the famous Mantegna
. On the two
other and smaller sides of the stage there were
similar arcades, but only six in number. Two sides
of the stage were given up to the actors and reciters ;
on the two others were steps occupied on the one
hand by women, on the other by strangers, trumpeters,
and musicians. At one angle were four very lofty
columns with rounded bases, and between them a
grotto designed with great art, but in the most
natural manner. The roof overhead blazed with
hundreds of lights like shining stars, with an artificial
circle, showing the signs of the zodiac, and in the
centre, the sun and moon
moving in their accus-
tomed orbits. Within the recess was a Wheel of
Fortune inscribed with the words. Regno, regnam,
regnabo, and in the midst, the golden goddess,
seated on her throne, bearing a sceptre adorned with
a dolphin.
The lowest tier of the stage was hung
with the Triumphs of Petrarch, also painted by
Mantegna, and large golden candelabra hung from
the centre of the roof, each holding three double
rows of torches and a shield with the arms of His
Caesarean Majesty, the black eagle with the royal and
imperial diadem. At the sides of the stage were two
large banners with the arms of His Holiness the Pope
and the Emperor
, and smaller ensigns with those
of the Most Christian King and illustrious Signory
of Venice. Between the arches were banners with
the arms of Your Excellency and of the German
prince Duke Albert of Bavaria, and the devices of
this Signor Marchese and the Signora Marchesana.
Higher up on the walls were busts and statues of
gold, silver, and other metals, which added greatly
to the decorative effect of the whole. Last of all
the roof was hung with sky-blue cloth to imitate
the blue vault of heaven, studded over with the
constellations of our hemisphere.

"The recitations were exceedingly fine and en-
joyable. On Friday 'Philonico' was given, on
Saturday ' II Penulo ' of Plautus, on Sunday the
'Ippolita' of Seneca, on Monday the 'Adelphi'
of Terence. AU of these were admirably recited by
skilled actors, and received the greatest applause
from the spectators. As Monsignore Louis d'Ars,
the son of the illustrious M. de Ligny, is now here,
and had not seen the first play, I hear the ' Philonico '
will probably be given again. If I have forgotten
anything, I hope soon to supply the omission by
word of mouth, when I see Your Excellency, to
whose good graces I C9mmend myself —
Excellency's servant and slave, Sigismondo Can-
From Mantua, Feb. 13, 1501.

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