Scenography relates to the material and technological stagecrafts of performance design.[1]


In what is not the first use of the term, Antonio Caimi in 1862, describes a category of artists practising pittura scenica e l'architettura teatrale, inspired by the artists Ferdinando Galli-Bibiena, who was also known as a painter quadratura or architectural painting (usually trompe-l'œil depictions of architecture on ceilings or walls). Caimi also calls this Arte scenografica, and notes that it required ingenious engineering to create movable sets, or create illusions of environments. The Galli da Bibiena family was a pedigree of scenographic artistry that emerged in late seventeenth century Bologna, but spread throughout Northern Italy, to Austria and Germany. Another large family known for theatrical scenography were members of the Quaglio surname.

Caimi goes on to mention practitioners of scenography in the second half of the 18th century and early 19th century in Lombardy, included: Bernardino Galliari, Gaspare Galliari, Pasquale Canna, Pietro Gonzaga, Paolo Landriani, Giovanni Perego, Alessandro Sanquirico, Bomenico Menozzi, Carlo Fontana, Baldassare Cavallotti, Carlo Ferrari, Filippo Peroni, Carlo Ferrario, Enrico Rovecchi, Angelo Moja, Luigi Vimercati, and the brothers Mofta of Modena among others.[2] A review of the history of Italian-influenced scenic painting, architecture, and design up to the nineteenth century was provided by Landriani.[3]


While also aligned with the professional practice of the scenographer, it is important to distinguish the individual elements that comprise the 'design' of a performance event (such as light, environment, costume, etc.) from the term 'scenography' which is an artistic perspective concerning the visual, experiential and spatial composition of performance. Influenced by the work of Modernist pioneers Adolphe Appia and Edward Gordon Craig, scenography proposes that design practices within performance are considered an equal partner, alongside other elements such as literary texts and performance technique, within the construction and reception of meaning. The practice of scenography is thereby a holistic approach to the composition of performance and can be applied to the design or curation of events within, and outside, of the conventional theatre environment. Or as Pamela Howard states in her book What is Scenography?:

"Scenography is the seamless synthesis of space, text, research, art, actors, directors and spectators that contributes to an original creation." [4]

Joslin McKinney and Philip Butterworth expand upon this to suggest that:

"Scenography is not simply concerned with creating and presenting images to an audience; it is concerned with audience reception and engagement. It is a sensory as well as an intellectual experience, emotional as well as rational." [5]

Scenographic theory

While there is no one theory of scenography, Rachel Hann has argued for a distinction between 'scenography' and 'scenographics'. This approach positions scenography as a "crafting of place orientation"[6] and a theatre-making strategy, alongside dramaturgy and choreography. The usage of place orientation as the loci for scenography seeks to capture an understanding that is inclusive of the physical as well as metaphysical relations that affect how individuals design and experience the assemblage of place. This could be the role of directed sound systems in cultivating a feeling of isolation; the usage of a tightly focused lantern to re-orientate the spatial dimensions of a place; the scent of an old well-worn desk; along with how costume molds relations between bodies and stage environments. In practice, Hann argues that it is the interrelations between these distinct methods of scenography (costume, scenery, light, sound) that gives rise to an act of scenography, where "scenography is neither exclusively visual nor spatial" [7]

Hann introduces this framework by plotting the usage of key terminologies:

"As part of this differentiation, I approach a scenographic trait as orientating and scenography as a crafting. My intention is to map how these evidently related concepts apply to artistic and social scenarios beyond institutional conceptions of theatre. I attempt to dissuade the reader from understanding notions of scenographic as singular and monolithic. My adoption of scenographics stresses the inherent plurality and multiplicities that sustain a scenographic encounter. Consequently, scenographic traits result from a combination of orientating stimuli that exceed strict ontologies of empiricism and complicate the neat separation of theatrical crafts." [8]

Scenographics are a collection of place orientating traits that are often explicit in theatre, yet are also present within other scenographic cultures such as gardening and visual merchandising. These traits draw attention to "orders of world"[9] by employing methods that sculpt or irritate how distinct worlding orientations (whether that of materiality and texture, familiarity and proximity, as well as ideologies of nation and identity) sit together as part of a broader geography. Hann consolidates this position by arguing that to "speak of staging is to speak of how scenographics enact an ‘othering’ of place"[10]. Scenographics are "interventional acts of orientation that complicate, reveal or score processes of worlding"[11].

Lastly, Hann proposes that scenographics are formative to all staged atmospheres by arguing that there "are no stages without scenographics"[12]. This is based on an argument that "all stages are also scenes"[13] that challenges the "deterministic assumption that stages precede scenography"[14]. In this model, stages become manifest through the place orientating traits of scenographics (rather than the other way around). The implications of this are that all theatre is scenographic - even if it has no defined objects or 'setting' - as all theatre is performed on a stage. Hann summarises this position by using the hybrid 'stage-scene' when discussing the tensions between the histories of these practices, particularly with reference to original Greek skene as a physical tent or hut that ultimately shaped current conceptualizations of 'the stage'.

Etymology and cultural interpretations

The term scenography is of Greek origin (skēnē, meaning 'stage or scene building'; grapho, meaning 'to describe') originally detailed within Aristotle's Poetics as 'skenographia'. Nevertheless, within continental Europe the term has been closely aligned with the professional practice of scénographie and is synonymous with the English language term 'theatre design'. More recently, the term has been used in museography with regards the curation of museum exhibits.

See also


  1. ^ Walker, John (1992) "Scenography". Glossary of Art, Architecture & Design since 1945, 3rd. ed.
  2. ^ Caimi, Antonio (1862). Delle arti del designo e degli artisti nelle provincie di Lombardia dal 1777-1862. Milan, Italy: Presso Luigi di Giacomo Pirola. pp. 112–118.
  3. ^ Landriani, Paolo (1830). Dottore Giulio Ferrario (ed.). Storia e Descrizione de' Principali Teatri Antichi e Moderni. Tipografia del Dottor Giulio Ferrario, Contrada del Bocchetto N. 2465.
  4. ^ Howard, Pamela (2002). What is Scenography?. London: Routledge. p. 130.
  5. ^ McKinney, Joslin (2009). The Cambridge Introduction to Scenography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 4.
  6. ^ Hann, Rachel (2018). Beyond Scenography. Oxon.: Routledge. p. 17.
  7. ^ ibid. p. 15.
  8. ^ ibid. p. 4.
  9. ^ ibid. p. 2.
  10. ^ ibid. p. 32.
  11. ^ ibid. p. 79.
  12. ^ ibid. p. 78.
  13. ^ ibid. p. 3.
  14. ^ ibid. p. 63.

Selected bibliography

  • Aronson, A. (2005) Looking into the Abyss: Essays on Scenography, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
  • Aronson, A. (2018) The History and Theory of Environmental Scenography, (Revised 2nd edition) London: Bloomsbury Methuen
  • Aronson, A.(2018) The Routledge Companion to Scenography, London: Routledge
  • Baugh, C. (2013) Theatre, Performance, and Technology: The Development and Transformation of Scenography, (Revised 2nd edition) Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Beacham, R. C. (1994) Adolphe Appia: Artist and Visionary of the Modern Theatre, Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers
  • Brockett, O. G., Mitchell, M. and Hardberger, L. (2010) Making the Scene: A History of Stage Design and Technology in Europe and the United States, Austin (TX): University of Texas Press
  • Craig, E. G. (1911) Towards a New Theatre, London: Heinemann. [Reprinted in 1962, London: Mercury Books]
  • Hann, R. (2018) Beyond Scenography, Oxon.: Routledge
  • Hannah, D. and Harsløf, O. eds. (2008) Performance Design, Nijalsgade, Denmark: Museum Tusculanum Press
  • Howard, P. (2002) What is Scenography?, London: Routledge [Second Edition 2009]
  • McAuley, G. (1999) Space in Performance: Making Meaning in the Theatre, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
  • McKinney, J. and Butterworth, P. (2009) The Cambridge Introduction to Scenography, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • McKinney, J. and Palmer, S. (2017) Scenography Expanded: An Introduction to Contemporary Performance Design, London: Bloomsbury Methuen
  • Svoboda, J. and Burian, J. ed. (1993) The Secret of Theatrical Space, New York: Applause Theatre Books


External links

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The most valued scenographer of the Albanian Theater (with over 300 scenographies)

Distinguished Albanian painter (with about 800 artworks)

Professor at the Academy of Arts in Tirana Albanian Academy of Belle Arts for 40 years

President of the Nationwide Figurative Artists’ Association

Recognitions and awards: People's Artist of Albania, Artist Emeritus, Professor

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The film entered the competition at the 7th Venice International Film Festival. For her performance Alida Valli won the Nastro d'Argento for Best Actress. The film also won the Nastro d'Argento for Best Scenography.

Henrikas Ciparis

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He graduated from high school in 1960, and was drafted into the army. He entered the Vilnius Art Institute (now Vilnius Art Academy) to study art pedagogy, and after a three-year continued his studies at the newly established high school Scenography Department.

He graduated from the Lithuanian Institute of Fine Arts, in 1969. Since 1973, Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater artist, and since 1983 chief artist.

In 1976-1982, he was Lithuanian head of the Art Institute of Scenography.

He held about 20 solo exhibitions in Lithuania and abroad. Creator of costumes and about 60 performances in Vilnius, Klaipeda, Erfurt, Kemerovo theaters.

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Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design

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National Center of Stage Costume

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Outline of stagecraft

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to stagecraft:

Stagecraft – technical aspect of theatrical, film, and video production. Stagecraft is distinct from the wider scope of scenography. Considered a technical rather than an artistic field, it relates primarily to the practical implementation of a designer's artistic vision.

Ralph Pappier

Ralph Pappier ( 16 January 1914 in Shanghai – 29 August 1998 in Buenos Aires) was an Argentine production designer, set decorator and film director. He was most prolific in Argentine cinema in the 1940s, and contributed to a range of acclaimed films during the period. He was production designer for the Silver Condor Award for Best Film award-winning The Gaucho War (1942) and Best Cinematography winner Three Men of the River (1943), and director of the Silver Condor for Best Film winning films School of Champions (1950) and Caballito criollo (1953).He was also cinematographer for the 1945 film Circus cavalcade. The Argentine Academy of Cinematography Arts and Sciences gave him awards for Best Scenography for En el viejo Buenos Aires (1942) and Su mejor alumno (1944).

Romantic ballet

The Romantic ballet is defined primarily by an era in ballet in which the ideas of Romanticism in art and literature influenced the creation of ballets. The era occurred during the early to mid 19th century primarily at the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique of the Paris Opera Ballet and Her Majesty's Theatre in London. It is typically considered to have begun with the 1827 début in Paris of the ballerina Marie Taglioni in the ballet La Sylphide, and to have reached its zenith with the premiere of the divertissement Pas de Quatre staged by the Ballet Master Jules Perrot in London in 1845. The Romantic ballet had no immediate end, but rather a slow decline. Arthur Saint-Léon's 1870 ballet Coppélia is considered to be the last work of the Romantic Ballet.

During this era, the development of pointework, although still at a fairly basic stage, profoundly affected people's perception of the ballerina. Many lithographs of the period show her virtually floating, poised only on the tip of a toe. This idea of weightlessness was capitalised on in ballets such as La Sylphide and Giselle, and the famous leap apparently attempted by Carlotta Grisi in La Péri.

Other features which distinguished Romantic ballet were the separate identity of the scenarist or author from the choreographer, and the use of specially written music as opposed to a pastiche typical of the ballet of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The invention of gas lighting enabled gradual changes and enhanced the mysteriousness of many ballets with its softer gleam. Illusion became more diverse with wires and trap doors being widely used.

Scenic design

Scenic design (also known as scenography, stage design, set design, or production design) is the creation of theatrical, as well as film or television scenery. Scenic designers come from a variety of artistic backgrounds, but in recent years, are mostly trained professionals, holding a B.F.A. or M.F.A. degrees in theater arts. Scenic designers design sets and scenery that aim to support the overall artistic goals of the production.


A scenographer or production designer, develops the appearance of a stage design, a TV or movie set, a gaming environment, a trade fair exhibition design or a museum experience exhibition design. The term originated in theater. A scenographer works together with the theater director to make the message come through in the best way they think possible, the director having the leading role and responsibility particularly for dramatic aspects - such as casting, acting, and direction - and the scenographer primarily responsible for the visual aspects or "look" of the production - which often includes scenery or sets, lighting, and costumes, and may include projections or other aspects.

While a common role in theatrical production teams in most countries, the position of scenographer is very uncommon in the United States, where this task is generally parcelled out among several people, principally the scenic or set designer who generally spearheads the visual aspects of the production. The production's design team often includes designers for: scenic design, lighting, sound, projections, costumes, properties, choreography, and sometimes others.

Plays are usually produced by a production team that commonly includes a director, scenic or set designer, lighting designer, costume designer, sound designer, dramaturg, stage manager, and production manager.


Stagecraft is the technical aspect of theatrical, film, and video production. It includes constructing and rigging scenery; hanging and focusing of lighting; design and procurement of costumes; make-up; stage management; audio engineering; and procurement of props. Stagecraft is distinct from the wider umbrella term of scenography. Considered a technical rather than an artistic field, it is primarily the practical implementation of a scenic designer's artistic vision.

In its most basic form, stagecraft may be executed by a single person (often the stage manager of a smaller production) who arranges all scenery, costumes, lighting, and sound, and organizes the cast. Regional theatres and larger community theatres will generally have a technical director and a complement of designers, each of whom has a direct hand in their respective designs.

Within significantly larger productions, for example a modern Broadway show, effectively bringing a show to opening night requires the work of skilled carpenters, painters, electricians, stagehands, stitchers, wigmakers, and the like. Modern stagecraft is highly technical and specialized: it comprises many sub-disciplines and a vast trove of history and tradition.

Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones

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