Technologies of Spectacle – Knowledge Transfer in Early Modern Theater Cultures

26 October, 2014

International Workshop, University of Amsterdam, November 14-15, 2014

Conception: Jan Lazardzig (Universiteit van Amsterdam) and Hole Rössler (Herzog August-Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel)

Baroque theater spectacles are frequently celebrated for their ephemerality and inimitability. The technology behind these spectacles is, in contrast, often far less unique. As is wellknown, the Early Modern stage technology has its origins in the context of ducal courts of Northern Italy in the 16th century. The specific social, political, economical and medial conditions and requirements for producing, accumulating, and distributing technical knowledge, however, have found only scarce attention among historians of theater and technology so far. This workshop sets out to explore these widely neglected problem areas.

The point of departure shall be the manuscript cod. icon 401 (Bavarian State Library), which provides a rare and fascinating insight into the knowledge about stage technology in the early 17th century. This recently identified manuscript, written in German, stems from the hand of the Swabian architect and engineer Joseph Furttenbach (1591-1667). It centers machines and decorations created by the architect and stage designer Giulio Parigi for the six intermedia of Il Giudizio di Paride (1608) at the Florentine court theater. The author explicates these spectacular machines with the aid of abundant drawings and etchings. The construction and functioning of these machines was taught at Parigi’s Florentine academy of art and engineering, which Furttenbach attended (among many other stage designers of his time, like Jacques Callot, Inigo Jones, and Cosimo Lotti). Hence, this manuscript offers valuable clues to areas of Early Modern machine construction for which only little evidence is known. Furthermore, it sheds light on the practices of knowledge acquisition and knowledge transfer in engineering and scenography in Early Modern Europe.

On the basis of this material, further questions concerning the epistemological dimensions of Early Modern theater technology shall be addressed. How did the transfer of technical knowledge about stage machinery and scenography take place in Early Modern Europe? In which way was technical knowledge transformed while being transferred from one sociocultural context to another? What were relevant factors of transformation both theoretical (terminological) and practical while adopting technical devices and their medial representations to cultural-specific social, political, and economic resources? How did the exclusivity of technical knowledge play out aesthetically and socially? What are the adequate methods for the description and analysis of technical knowledge from a theater historiographical perspective?

This workshop is made possible with financial support from Amsterdams Universiteitsfonds and the Amsterdam School for Cultural History (ASCH).


Workshop Program


Friday, 14.11.2014 Vondelzaal (Universiteitsbibliotheek)

09:00 – 10:30 Jan Lazardzig (Amsterdam) / Hole Rößler (Wolfenbüttel): Welcome / Introduction

10:30 – 10:45 Coffee break

10:45 – 11:45 Sara Mamone (Florence): The Uffizi Theatre: The Florentine Scene from Bernardo Buontalenti to Giulio and Alfonso Parigi

11:45 – 12:00 Coffee break

12:00 – 13:00 Guiseppe Adami (St. Andrews): Between Tradition and Innovation: Reconsidering Florentine Stage Machinery of the Seventeenth Century in the Light of the Furttenbach Codex iconographicus 401

13:00 – 15:00 Lunch break

Bijzondere Collecties, Universiteit van Amsterdam

15:00 – 16:00 Hans van Keulen / Willem Rodenhuis (Amsterdam): Presentation from the Performing Arts Special Collection Theater in Nederland (TiN)

16:00 – 17:00 Peter Eversmann (Amsterdam): The Amsterdam 'Schouwburg' of 1637: Design Influences and Technical Furnishings

17:00 – 17:30 Dominique Lauvernier (Caen): Presentation of a 3D model of the fourth intermezzo of Il Giudizio di Paride


Saturday, 15.11.2014 Doelenzaal (Universiteitsbibliotheek)

10:00 – 11:00 Simon Paulus (Stuttgart): The View of an Engineer: Some Aspects of Spatial and Technical Perception in the “Furttenbach-Manuscript”

11:00 – 11:15 Coffee break

11:15 – 12:15 Matteo Valleriani (Berlin): Liberty of Action and Imitation: How to Achieve a Result by Any Means

12:15 – 12:30 Coffee break

12:30 – 13:30 Stefan Hulfeld (Vienna): A Theory of Acting for Stage Machinery



Vondelzaal: Universiteit van Amsterdam, Universiteitsbibliotheek, Singel 425, 1012 WP Amsterdam

Bijzondere Collecties: Oude Turfmarkt 129, 1012 GC Amsterdam

Doelenzaal: Universiteit van Amsterdam, Universiteitsbibliotheek, Singel 425, 1012 WP Amsterdam


Please register for participation!



Jan Lazardzig /

Hole Rößler /

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