Elaborate baroque theatrical design for a scene from the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament by Giuseppe Galli Bibiena, a highly influential set designer who served the Habsburg Emperor. The monumental architectural space is conveyed through dramatic linear perspective. The figures are dwarfed by comparison, but in the middle ground of the vast space, behind a baroque fountain decorated with putti, a haloed Jesus, his head bowed, is led by soldiers up the stairs on the left as men gathered at the next landing look down over a balustrade (a few also watch from a rooftop above the vaulted ceiling). The title of the scene appears in a cartouche incorporated into the architectural decoration of the archway: “Et adduxerunt Jesum ad Summum Sacerdotum. Marc Cap. 14 V. 53 [And they led Jesus to the high priest. Mark 14:53.]” This print is one of the 50 engravings from Bibiena’s collection Architteture e Prospettive, which encompassed different themes of “teatri sacri” (religious scenery), including scenes from the life of Jesus.
Giuseppe Galli Bibiena was an architect and scenographer for Charles VI, Habsburg emperor at the court of Vienna. Bibiena came from a family of artists and was trained by his father, Ferdinando who served as painter and scenic artist to Charles VI from 1714, while Giuseppe worked under his direction. By 1717, Ferdinando had returned to Italy and Giuseppe was officially appointed “His Majesty’s Second Theater Engineer,” designing state sets for court festivities and theatrical productions. He also created temporary decorations for church festivals, designed religious and secular frescoes, and created designs for painting and architectural decoration in various European countries. Promoted to First Theater Engineer in 1723, he remained in that role until Charles’s death in 1740. That year, Bibiena completed the first five parts of Architteture e Prospettive, which consisted solely of unannotated plates that demonstrated his unique synthesis of painting, architecture and scenography. The five-volume work included “teatri sacri” (religious scenery), funereal apparatus and imaginary architectural scenes. Two more parts were published in 1744. The publication of Archittetture e Prospettive influenced theatrical design throughout Europe by popularizing “scena ad angolo,” curved backdrops. After 1740, Bibiena served other aristocratic and royal patrons. His magnum opus is the opera house in Bayreuth.
Johann Andreas Pfeffel the Elder was a German engraver and printseller. He studied at the Academy of Vienna and worked in Vienna and Augsburg. He is especially known for his engravings of architecture and decorative motifs and illustrated numerous books. He often worked with Christian Engelbrecht. His son, Johann Andreas Pfeffel the Younger, was also an engraver.
Full publication information: P.IV. 8. J. G. Bibiena Sac. Caes. M. Architect’g Theat. Prim. Inv. et del. J. A. Pfeffel. S.C.M. Chalcogr. sculpt. direx. A.V.
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 6, p. 639.
Evers, Bernd, ed. Architectural Theory from the Renaissance to the Present: 89 Essays on 117 Treatises. Taschen: 2003. pp. 156-163. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=V5OK-Yw-A3cC&pg=PA158 (7 November 2013).