Theatrical Scene Painting

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Scholars and historians have debated for centuries as to how, when, and by whom scene painting came into being. The debate has raged because most of what is known is rela tively scant, upon which conjecture has been based. What can be cited arc the writings of Roman historian Vitruvius, who, writ~ ing in the first century H.C.E., made mention of a painter who worked with the Creek playwright Aeschylus. As many of toclay's theatrical conventions found their beginnings in ancient Greece, it is hardly ullsurprising, and quite likely, that the first person to use some semblance of theatrical painting was this first of all great Greek playwrights. The painter with whom he worked-and on what play or how many is unknown-was a gifted and inventive painter by the name of Agatharchus. His bag of tricks may have contained a technique the Greeks called skiagraphia, or "shadow painting." This is most interesting, as the mere hint of a shadow in a painted illusion leads to the assumption that the paintings created by Agatharchus likely possessed some semblance of depth, plane variation, or three-dimensional illusion.
To what extent the forms of scene painting used now were in practice then is totally without evidence. It is assumed that a type of scenic surface-or pinake (a precursor of the scenic Rat), which scholars believe was inserted in entrance doorways of the skene or scene house (see fig. l)-was painted upon, thus giving an impression of the genre or theme of the play being presented.
Despite the historical references to shadow paiming, however convincing or tangible the images may have been, is, unfortunately, in the hands of the wishful dreamer; and what could have been an interesting illusion to the eye of the ancient Greek was probably achieved by accident or keen observation on the part of the painter. It is safe to say that practitioners in antiqu ity possessed no
 
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