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Architecture, Theater, and Fantasy

Architecture, Theater, and Fantasy


Bibiena Drawings from the Jules Fisher Collection


For nearly a century, members of three generations of the Bibiena family were the most highly sought theater designers in Europe. Their elaborate stage designs were used for operas, festivals, and courtly performances across Europe: from their native Italy to cites as far afield as Vienna, Prague, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Lisbon. Beyond these performances, the distinctive Bibiena style survives through their remarkable drawings.


Architecture, Theater, and Fantasy marks the promised gift to the Morgan Library & Museum of a group of Bibiena drawings from the collection of Jules Fisher, the Tony Award-winning lighting designer, and commemorates an exhibition of these works, the first in the United States in over thirty years to celebrate these talented draftsmen. These drawings demonstrate the range of the Bibienas’ output, from energetic sketches to highly finished watercolors. With representations of imagined palace interiors and lavish illusionistic architecture, this group of drawings highlights the visual splendor of the Baroque stage.


The catalogue opens with Diane Kelder’s introductory essay about the Bibiena family. Laurel Peterson then discusses the Bibienas as draftsmen, underscoring the drawings from the Fisher collection. Arnold Aronson, in turn, explores the family’s contribution to the theater, setting them within a history of European stage design and explaining the significance of the dynamic angled perspective of their scena per angolo sets. John Marciari’s essay considers the Fisher gift among the many Bibiena drawings already at the Morgan, mainly from the Oenslager collection, and looks at the collecting of Bibiena drawings more generally. Finally, Diane Kelder’s checklist offers information regarding the attribution and provenance of the works in the exhibition.

  • May 2021

    Arnold Aronson, Diane Kelder, John Marciari and Laurel Peterson

    Paperback, 210 x 210 mm

    96 pages, 60 colour illus.

    ISBN: 978-1-913645-04-5

    About the authors

    Arnold Aronson is professor of theatre in the MFA Theatre Program at the Columbia University School of the Arts. Diane Kelder is professor emerita of art history at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and consulting curator of theFisher collection. John Marciari is the Charles W. Engelhard Curator of Drawings and Prints and curatorial chair at the Morgan Library & Museum. Laurel Peterson, formerly the Moore Curatorial Fellow at the Morgan Library & Museum, is an independent scholar.

  • Exhibition

    Morgan Library & Museum, New York

    28 May – 12 September 2021

  • In the press

    "a small but exquisite show of drawings by the Bibiena family, which transformed theatrical design in the 17th and 18th centuries." —The New York Times

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