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Alessandro Sanquirico (Italian, 1777-1849)

Raccolta di Varie Decorazioni Sceniche, Inventate ed Eseguiti per l' I. R. Teatro Alla Scala
[A Collection Of Stage Decorations Invented, Designed and Built for the La Scala Opera House]
Aquatint engravings with original hand coloring
Milan, ca 1827
As opera reached a height of popularity and innovation in early 19th-century Italy, stage sets and scenery were increasingly viewed as art forms unto themselves.  Enterprising artists and designers competed to create the most lavish, evocative, and visually engaging opera settings, and were so successful that their stage sets often competed with the performances themselves for an audience’s attention and appreciation.  Public criticism of various operas often revolved as much around the quality of the set designs as the beauty of the music, and audiences became increasingly discerning about the visual aspects of grand performances.  Reflecting this tendency, Alessandro Sanquirico, a Milanese artist, was inspired to document the most striking sets at Italy’s most celebrated opera house, La Scala in Milan.  Sanquirico’s vividly colored, masterfully drafted aquatint engravings capture the sumptuousness and sheer spectacle of these extravagant sets, often including costumed singers in the midst of a concert, and at the same time the artist brings the excitement of the performance to life in these remarkably vibrant illustrations.