A Glorious c.1900 French Hand-Painted Theatre Canvas Backdrop

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Origin: French
Period: 3rd Republic
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1890-1910
Width: 127.5 inches
Height: 128 inches

The very large hand-painted theatre canvas backdrop depicting a parted pair of red velvet stage curtains with gold cords and tassels, and strewn flowers amongst the partition, the whole at approximately 10.5 feet square, survives from turn of the century France.

Suspended from a hardwood top rail the painted canvas is in fair to good overall condition, with a few creases here which could be dropped out over time, minor scuffs to the paintwork, and four small tears which do not severely detract from the whole.

Beautifully hand crafted in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, this backdrop would have been an ever present at the start productions, probably used as a staple backdrop for each and every production in the particular theatre. The skill here is of a high level, the curtains have a fluidity and movement to them, they appear luxurious and the light playing on the tassels and the rendering of the partition, particularly the faint flowers seen at the base are all deftly executed.

The major battle of romanticism in France was fought in the theatre. The early years of the century were marked by a revival of classicism and classical-inspired tragedies, often with themes of national sacrifice or patriotic heroism in keeping with the spirit of the Revolution, but the production of Victor Hugo's Hernani in 1830 marked the triumph of the romantic movement on the stage. By the middle of the century, theatre began to reflect more and more a realistic tendency, associated with Naturalism. These tendencies can be seem in the theatrical melodramas of the period and, in an even more lurid and gruesome light, in the Grand Guignol at the end of the century. Also popular were the operettas, farces and comedies of Ludovic Halévy, Henri Meilhac, and, at the turn of the century, Georges Feydeau. Before the war, at the time this backdrop was made, the most successful play was Octave Mirbeau's great comedy Les affaires sont les affaires (Business is business) (1903). The poetry of Baudelaire and much of the literature in the latter half of the century (or "fin de siècle") were often characterised as "decadent" for their lurid content or moral vision.

A simply spectacular and unique theatrical backdrop, perfect for a large space… let the show commence.

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