Ephemeral Graphics_ Illusionism and Representation in Baroque Machines

  • Caterina PalestiniEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 1140)


The paper examines the forms of graphic expression related to the representation put in place by the ephemeral machines of the Baroque period. It investigates through images and narrations the atmosphere generated by equipment set up, designed and staged for civil and religious occasions, destined to last the timeframe of the event. The artificial and illusory pomposity of these works of ancient origins finds its maximum expression and symbolic value between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when they spread to celebrate recurrences or important events. The stage machines, built with perishable materials such as wood, metal and papier-mache’ were often designed by famous architects and represented a means to transform the architectural and urban context into an engaging collective stage to which the people witnessed. The temporality does not diminish the value of these works designed to communicate sacred and profane values, to generate amazement and wonder, designed to be transformed with ingenious mechanisms triggered during the show. The testimonies of such events are often documented by images and narratives, reports to the ceremonies that describe the theatrical event and the ephemeral machines made for the show, depicted in preparatory drawings, engravings and paintings that describe the episodes. The sources show names of artistic personalities such as Bernini, Pietro da Cortona, Girolamo and Carlo Rainaldi, Domenico Fontana, Andrea Pozzo indicated among the designers of important installations that took the pretext to experiment with forms and scenic perceptions of urban space, some translated into final works. In summary, from the extensive research conducted on the subject, some prototypes reconstructed with digital models were analyzed and selected in order to simulate the appearance of the machine and the theatricality staged by the ephemeral representation.


Representation Ephemeral Scenography Perspective Illusionism Baroque 



The research was carried out with the collaboration of the architects Sabrina Timei and Giusy Defilippis.


  1. Fagiolo, M., Madonna, L.M.: Barocco romano e Barocco italiano. Il teatro, l’effimero, l’allegoria, pp. 88–99. Gangemi, Roma (1985)Google Scholar
  2. De Feo, V., Martinelli, V.: Andrea Pozzo, ed. Electa, Milano, pp. 96–113 (1996)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Architecture (PE)Università degli Studi dell’Adriatico “G. d’Annunzio”PescaraItaly

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