Vitali’s photographs are like extraordinary scenography, theatrical backdrops from another time, scene paintings with a rigorous and clean vanishing point. Theatrical scenography, as is well known, is strictly linked to the problem of spatial representation: as in painting, it wishes to reproduce the image of an architectural space in three dimensions, so with a sense of depth. At a time in which theater did not yet have a dedicated space but rather could be viewed in different places from Noble palazzi to the large gardens of Florence, Ferrara, or Venice, the theater celebrated culture in its ideal forms. In Vitali’s work “Picnic Allée”, which seeks to capture a joyful picnic at the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris (2006), Vitali seems to depict the humanistic “ideal city”, the city as it should be, the urban space where we would like to live.

In his Landscape with figures, having eliminated the frame (known in the theatre as the scenic arch), Vitali launches the scene to the horizon. As in a perfect theatrical machine, the artist brings us back to the unity of the crowd of performers within a satirical scene and its bucolic landscape, thanks to the vanishing point which brings the eye to where land meets the sea. In giving the natural elements (the rows of trees along the two diagonals) the semblance of lateral successive and symmetric backstages, as they decrease in height and accentuating the prospectical effect of the panorama, Vitali applies the scenographic principle of Baldassarre Peruzzi and the “great magician” Giacomo Torelli from Fano. Their drawings and paintings produced that effect of harmony, wonder and amazement for which the Italian Renaissance and later the theatrical Baroque are universally remembered.

Giacomo Torelli (1608-1678), Act III scène 5 “The Champs Elysées” from the Opera La Venere Gelosa (Teatro Novissimo, Venice, 1643).

Anna Maria Monteverdi, Theatrical perspective, July 10, 2019.