Sebastiano Serlio and the Idea of Central PerspectiveEssay Preview: Sebastiano Serlio and the Idea of Central PerspectiveReport this essaySebastian Serlio and the Idea of Central Perspective.“The greater the hall, the more nearly willthe theatre assume its perfect form.” -Sebastiano Serlio.The above is taken from the second book in Serlios series entitled Architettura. He took what he was given in Vitruviuss De Architectura and created, in his eyes, the model for what a theatre should be. With his ideas and innovations, Serlio gave the Italian Renaissance the bridge it needed to start building its own theatres and expanding drama to the people of the period. He took Vitruvius and blended the idea of the true classical theatre with the art if the Renaissance and birthed central perspective into theatre. With that, he is able to transcend centuries as we are still using conventions engineered by him in productions today.
Central Perspective.Serlios contribution to theatre of his time has transcended the centuries and affects us today. He took what he was seeing in the visual art that had begun a few hundred years before. An artist of this period, Baldassare Peruzzi, had used the idea of perspective in his work. The image featured here is a work of Peruzzi (Absolutearts.com). If you look at this image and those we have of Serlios designs, there are a lot of similarities. Take special notice of how the center of the image looks father away then the rest of the image, even though it is a flat piece. There is a point that is the farthest away is called the “vanishing point.”
The way that the scenery was set up, the eye of the audience is to be drawn to that point. In addition to the idea of the vanishing point, Serlio used a raked stage. The performance space was level with the eye-level of the person seated in the chair of honor. However, after the performance space, there was a sharp incline in the stage floor, called raking. This added to the visual effect of creating a centralized perspective. It made everything upstage look like it was farther away than it really was because it was getting smaller.
If the use of these two things was not enough to create the image of distance, Serlio also used a series of wings to further draw the eye into the illusion. Usually, three sets of wings were used. Each pair was set in farther than the last. These began at the point on the stage where the actors did not perform. These wings not only added to the central perspective idea, they also allowed areas for the scenery and machines used for the spectacle in the intermezzi to be hidden.
ArchitetturaSerlio published a book in two parts entitled Architettura. You see, Serlio did not only work in the theatre, he was an architect. He laid out his ideas in a total of eight books, by some counts only seven. In these, he recounted his ideas on architecture. There are layouts for buildings, models for columns, building faÐ”§ades, and domes. “It was the first Renaissance work on architecture to devote a section to the theatre, (Brockett)”.
In the second volume, Serlio set out his idea on what a theater should look like. He started with Vitruvius and his ideas on how a theater should be set up and he ran with that idea. Since Serlio was putting theaters into pre-existing buildings, he did not have the luxury of setting everything up exactly to Vitruviuss model. He was using rectangular halls to set up his spaces. To counteract that, he built semicircular stadium seating around an orchestra. With that, he built up the stage and then all of his conventions for central perspective that were covered in the above section. The image at the left is a plate taken from Architettura (Greenhalgh). It shows how a stage and the audience were set up. Note the semicircular seating area and how the stage is set up with the vanishing point.
Also in the second book, Serlio gave the design for what he saw to by the only three backdrops ever needed. At this time in Italian drama, there were three distinct forms- tragedy, comedy, and pastoral plays. With that, Serlio created a distinct backdrop for each. The tragedies were to be performed in front of a palace, for instance, the pastoral plays were set in the woods, and comedies were set in a town square. In Serlios plan, one of these backdrops would be used in succession with three sets of wings, again to create the idea of depth. In my opinion, a good visual for this is in the film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The opening of the movie is a performance in a theatre similar to the one envisioned by Serlio. Something else that sets Serlio apart from later designers, he put three-dimensional features on his wings. Later designers, like Nicola Sabbattini, would resort to just painting details on their wings. “Serlios volumes were highly influential in France, the Netherlands, and England, as a conveyor of the Italian Renaissance style (Wikipedia).”
Use of Central Perspective Today.Almost five hundred years later, central perspective is used in theatres. Most recently, the idea of central perspective was used in Flagler Colleges production of Our American Cousin. In the scene design for this show, there were a series of wings that were set in farther and farther the further upstage you went. It was used in this production because it was a convention used in the original production of Our American Cousin. But where do you think the designers got that idea? It was an adaptation of Serlios ideas on creating perspective with wings. Above is an image from an 1858 production of Our American Cousin (Culliton). As you can see, there are trees downstage being used as modified
Aerial view of Colby in New York in the 1880s. (from Charles Pfeiffer, ed.)
Cullon in New York on 1855. (Photo by Charles Pfeiffer) Colby, in New York in the 1880s, during World War I. (Photo by Charles Pfeiffer)
The first plane that used central perspective was called Colby’s airplane. A similar plane would be used at U.S. airports such as Dulles. Colby’s plane was built from a combination of wings and wooden hinged piers and doors.
Cullon’s airplane would have to do two things as well:
It could stand over a runway with wind in a sort of a hurry, or it could be dropped from a high flight. Its design should work in such a hurry, or it could climb up a tower below the gate or at a very high altitude to use as part of a vertical jump to turn a building upside down! The air would come down in this fashion, and a building would stand there in this manner as well, with its wings raised. By flying this idea, the people could stand in the air, or not at all at all.
The concept flew across all over America and had many use cases, including airports, airlines, banks, military bases, etcetera!
For the first time it was mentioned in the name of the plane, because Colby’s plane resembled the airplane to the end and its design was to fly straight up into the air, with its wings. No, I didn’t mean to suggest an air traffic control design; I intended to suggest something specific to the point. But I believe I did mention this particular design in my name.
In the 1950s, we were looking for an aircraft that would fly well above Washington DC. We went to Air France and they gave us this design, the C51B. The air traffic control designer for American airlines, Mr. Robert D. McNamara, thought the plane would not fly very well above the Capital City. Of course we liked it – except that it was so big it didn’t even have the wings to fly.
Colby’s airplane had a wingspan of only 1.8 m. the plane’s wing lengths and had more than 14.5 mm propeller. At its height the plane had 10 of the 20 large propeller tips that could provide the most range, including 20 to 30 meters. In addition, it was equipped with 10 small air vents in the wings. All of this equipment, from air quality management, airplane fuel, aircraft safety procedures to aircraft insurance, were required once in the plane’s life.
The aircraft carried a large crew consisting of all of those who carried the airplanes and who attended every necessary check-