Costumes and Types

The baroque theatre cast of roles at the threshold to the seventeenth century consists for the most part still of recurrent and, therefore typecast, figures that develop only slowly into more individual roles. As a result, the baroque costume refers to set types both as regards popular spectacle as well as court opera.

Early examples of costume designs for the Italian popular theatre show the well-known types of the Commedia dell'arte, the folkloristic Italian professional theatre, in which trained comedians performed. Jacques Callot (1592–1635) etched and documented figure types such as Pantalone, one of the "oldies", or Zani, one of the "servants", who shared their characteristic behaviour and jokes based on a rough plot. Masked and in almost the same costumes that turned the actor into one of the "oldies", of the "love birds" or the "servants", the performance happened "all'improvviso" (improvised). The comic figure of the German "Hans Wurst" (Punchinello) is part of this type of improvised play and may be termed a type. He is characterised as a hungry, coarse but entertaining buffoon with his typical attributes of peasants' trousers with a short coat and hat, wearing his heart on his sleeve, the sausage in his belt, the pig's head on a stick.

The genre of opera, which was often performed in conjunction with ballet, also preserved figures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These as well are costumes for the typical, often recurring parts of opera such as the ancient hero, the exotic ruler of the central figures of Greek and Roman pantheon of the gods. Dressed in a garment or robe that suited a baroque taste, only a few significant attributes (e.g. the harness and helmet of the hero) supplied the essential information about the part played. In all theatre branches, the stage costume remained beholden to this scheme.

Departments in the collection of "The Portfolio of Prints and Drawings Referring to Baroque Theatre, Stage and Festival Culture" of the Deutsches Theatermuseum

>> This collection is part of the Portfolio of Prints and Drawings Referring to Baroque Theatre, Stage and Festival Culture in the Deutsche Theatermuseum (German Theatre Museum).