Bologna 1836 — 1927 Rome
View of the Large Theatre in Pompeii through the Ruins
watercolor over pencil. 137/8 x 181/4" (334 x 462mm). signed and dated: POMPEI 1910, Luigi Bazzani
Renowned for the extraordinary detail and quality of his work, his often exquisitely muted colors, his superb technical skill which enabled him for instance to replicate antique stone whether chipped facing or other decaying aspects of it, these things are in part why an exhibition of his watercolors of Pompeii was shown at the Archeological Museum in Naples in 2013-2014. Entitled Davvero! La Pompei di fine '800 nella Pittura di Luigi Bazzani, this exhibition was shown first in the artist's native Bologna before moving to Naples The collection of 36 of Bazzani's watercolors of the excavations of Pompeii which formed the basis of the exhibition are housed normally in the Archeological Museum. An additional 27 drawings and watercolors of the casa of vettii at Pompeii are conserved at the Museo Nazionale Romano but were not part of the exhibition.
There were two theatres in Pompeii, the earlier of which dates from the 1st century, the latter, from the 2nd. Both followed the Greek canon in that the tiered seating followed a natural slope and the orchestra was in a rectangular space forming a horseshoe shape. Both theatres were used to produce plays. The larger, 2nd c. theater, seated about 5,000: a semi-circular arrangement of tiers of stone benches, facing a rectangular stage. There were entrances at the sides and center back of the stage for the actors and chorus to make exits and entrances. No scenery was used - an actor would announce to the audience where the scene was set. The larger theater was used mainly for pantomimes, popular (usually vulgar) plays, and one-act plays. The smaller theater, called the Odeon, seated about 1,500, was built similarly, but had a roof. The Odeon was intended for a more educated audience, and was used mainly for musical performances, poetry recitals, and mime. Pompeii also had an Amphitheater for open-air shows such as gladiatorial combats.
It is the larger theatre which is depicted here. Two other views of Pompeii have recently been at auction. These were considerably smaller and yet sold well. It is unusually fortunate that some of Bazzani's work like the present watercolors have come down to us in such excellent condition. We are able to see why Bazzani was so well regarded for his skill as a watercolorist.
The young artist attended the Academy in his native Bologna. He then travelled to France and Germany before settling in Rome where he dedicated himself to sceneography for the theatre. But after 1881, he switched his allegiance to view painting, in oil first, of which there are examples in the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome. He taught perspective and theatre design at the Istituto di Belle Arte of Rome and later at theAccademia di San Luca, exhibiting yearly at the Accademia there as well as in major European cities such as Vienna, Paris, Munich, Berlin.