1770 Copper Engraving Architectural Section Altar Stage Set Salle Machine RDP1

173028_RDP1_068

This is an original 1770 monochrome copper engraving of an architectural cross section along the entire height and width of a theatre, likely inspired by, or representing the Salle des Machines (du Chateau des Tuileries), also known as the Théâtre des Tuileries in Paris, France. Engraved by Benard Fecit, the architectural section represents the mechanics employed below and above stage to move scenery and decorations, specifically the equipment for "le service des autels," or altar stage sets/pieces.

The architectural cross section identifies: (A) Altar (stage set/piece). (B) Structural support for mechanical components. (C) Unidentified mechanical component. (D) Structural frame (roof truss).

Construction of the Salle des Machines was initiated in 1660 upon the order of King Louis XIV who had received the idea from Cardinal Jules Mazarin, the chief minister of France. Originally, the large auditorium of the Salle des Machines was a portion of the larger complex of the Tuileries Palace. With a seating capacity of nearly 4,000, the Theatre derived its name, "Salle des Machines," or "Hall of Machines," from the technologically advanced mechanical systems devised by Italian architect Gaspare Vigarani to move scenic effects during opera and ballet performances. The structure itself was designed by French Classical architect Louis Le Vau and featured interior decoration by the painter Charles Errand.

Following its inauguration on 7 February, 1662, the Theatre was rarely used during the remainder of King Louis XIV's reign, as he had shifted his attention to the expansion of the Palace of Versailles. Over the proceeding years, the Theatre received various renovations, before it was destroyed by fire on 23 May, 1871, during the events of the Paris Commune (also known as the Fourth French Revolution).

CONDITION

This 241+ year old Item is rated Near Mint +. Light aging in margins. No creases. No natural defects. No surface rub. No tears. No water damage. Please note: There is a plate impression bordering the image in this print.

  • Product Type: Original Copper Engraving; Monochrome
  • Grade: Near Mint +
  • Dimensions: Approximately 9.5 x 16 inches; 24 x 41 cm
  • Authentication: Serial-Numbered Certificate of Authenticity w/ Full Provenance
  • Protection: Packaged in a custom archival sleeve with an acid-free black board (great for display, gift-giving, and preservation)

Period Paper is pleased to offer an exceptionally rare collection of original, first edition, to-scale architectural copper line engravings of European theatres represented in plan, section, elevation and mechanical detail. Compiled in 1770 by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond dÕAlembert as a portion of their innovative encyclopedic series Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, or Encyclopaedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Crafts, the collection represents a selection of some of the final images originally printed for the series, which ceased publication under the original authors in 1772.

The collection includes a theatre of antiquity, the Roman theatre at Herculaneum, theatres more contemporaneous to the printsÕ publication, including the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, the Théâtre Comédie Française, and the Salle de Machines in Paris, France; the Real Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Italy; and the Teatro Argentina in Rome, Italy as well as proposed theatre designs by Gabriel-Martin Dumont. The vast majority of pieces within the collection, however, detail in stunning clarity, the complex eighteenth century mechanization employed to move and animate stage scenery and decorations, the documentation and rendering of which were likely inspired by the technologically advanced mechanical systems of the Salle de Machines in Paris, France. Effectively unseen individually, each piece of the collection is beautifully rendered and printed in the finest methods of the eighteenth century.

Engraved by Benard Fecit and Benard Direx, the extraordinary pieces of the collection are produced through the standard eighteenth century process of copper line engraving. Architectural plans, possessing numerous straight edges and right angles, were difficult to achieve by engraving alone, the burin becoming a cumbersome tool for such detailed and linear work. Thus, the method employed to create the architectural renderings combined the chemistry of etching with the artistry of the engraverÕs burin. The process of line engraving involved numerous steps, all of which were variations on the intaglio method, in which lines were incised into the plate, existing and carrying ink below surface. Initially, a resistive ground, generally wax during the eighteenth century, was applied to the copper plate; through this ground, the etcher/engraver scratched the general areas of the image with a sharp etching needle. Once the image was scratched onto the plate, it was submerged in an acid bath, the wax acting as a resist to the acid while the ÒopenÓ lines scratched through the wax were bitten by the acid, deepening and broadening. The intensity of darkness was controlled both by the strength of the acid as well as the duration of time the lines were exposed to the acid. The plate is systematically removed from the bath, neutralized and the wax ground was applied to those lines the etcher/engraver wished to remain lighter, after which the plate was again submerged into the acid bath. This procedure was repeated until the approximate total effect had been achieved, at which point the plate was engraved with a burin in the traditional manner, the engraver skillfully working the areas requiring further emphasis or a more nuanced handling.

Thus produced, the copper line engraving plates of the collection were printed on elephant folio-sized, medium-weight cream handmade paper. The production of the paper stock employed the latest advances in eighteenth century handmade papermaking; the paper stock predating, by almost three decades, the mass-produced roll paper, which became viable in France in 1798. The superb paper quality highlights the era's predilection for strong, lightly sized paper with a fine structure and smooth surface, characteristics that clearly capture and convey the crisp line work and detail of the original line engraving, an essential capability in clearly conveying architectural attributes. The combination of deft eighteenth century artistic faculties, superior paper stock and the raised line resulting from the intaglio process bequeath images that are superbly legible, even after 241+ years.

The pieces of this unique collection embody the essence of Enlightenment philosophy and thought, individually and in totality unifying science, technology and art while providing exceptional historical and artistic documentation. This collection represents a unique opportunity to collect a valuable part of European history stunningly composed and illustrated.

Keywords specific to this image: Theater, Performing Arts, Architecture, Engineering, Architectural Design, Mechanical, Mechanization

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