Grotesque! Monstrous Arts and their Return

International conference, 8-9 October 2020

Within the extensive œuvre of the imperial theatre engineer Lodovico Ottavio Burnacini (1636–1707), which is part of the collection of the Theatermuseum, Vienna, some 125 drawings can be classified as grotesque and comic. Monstrous and strange figures, meticulous studies of uneven faces and grotesque-infernal scenes stand next to images showing masked figures of the Commedia all’improvviso. Characterized by bright colours, eccentricity, and lustfully changed proportions, Burnacini’s drawings bear witness to an idea of beings in which the boundaries between the vegetal, animal, mechanical, and human are blurred. The grotesque and the comic seem to be interdependent and the eeriness of the unusual appearances evokes laughter. This in turn deforms bodies and faces. The rediscovery of these exquisite drawings stimulates a multidisciplinary examination of the grotesque and its reception.

Andrea Sommer-Mathis (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften)
Stefan Hulfeld (Inst. für Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaft, Universität Wien)
Rudi Risatti (Theatermuseum)


Thursday, 8 October 2020
Lodovico Ottavio Burnacini und die Groteske in der Frühen Neuzeit
1.30 p.m. – Opening
1.45 p.m. – Markus WÖRGÖTTER (Wien): Geschöpf ohne Tiefe? – Erste Begegnung mit Burnacinis Groteskzeichnungen in der Ausstellung
2.30 p.m. – Laura RITTER (Albertina, Wien): »Ich habe nitt baldt was bössers gesehen«. Lodovico Ottavio Burnacini und die Diablerie des niederländischen 16. Jahrhunderts
3.15 p.m. – Valentina CONTICELLI (Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florenz): The Uffizi Grotesques
4 p.m. break
4.30 p.m. – Alessandro PONTREMOLI (Università di Torino): I balli di Sfessania. Trasgressione coreografica tra visione grottesca e realtà
5.15 p.m. – Jerôme DE LA GORCE (Sorbonne, Paris): Grotesques. Des décors ‹grotesques›  aux personnages ‹grotesques›, spécialités de Jean Berain sous le règne de Louis XIV

7 p.m. – Performance: Gli Antenati di Arlecchino, with Claudia Contin Arlecchino.
Free entrance

Friday, 9 October 2020
Groteske Praktiken in den Künsten
9.30 a.m. – Elisabeth GROSSEGGER (Institut für Kulturwissenschaften und Theatergeschichte, Wien): Groteske Komödie. Herbert Fritsch am Burgtheater
10.15 a.m. – Michael RÖSSNER (Institut für Kulturwissenschaften und Theatergeschichte, Wien):
Das Groteske als Phänomen der Wechselwirkung zwischen Inhalt und Kontext
11 break
11.30 a.m. – Federico CELESTINI (Universität Innsbruck): Verzerrte Klänge. Zur Konzeptualisierung des musikalisch Grotesken
12.15 p.m. – Stefan SCHMIDL (Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Abteilung Musikwissenschaft, Wien): Das Groteske im Kino der Wien-Film. Aspekte audiovisueller Inszenierung, Repräsentation und Charakterzeichnung
1 p.m. lunch break
›Groteske‹ als Kategorie der Reflexion
2.15 p.m. – Franz FILLAFER (Institut für Kulturwissenschaften und Theatergeschichte, Wien): Die Groteske als Reflexionsfigur der Revolution
3 p.m. – Christoph LEITGEB (Institut für Kulturwissenschaften und Theatergeschichte, Wien): Groteske Zubereitungen. Bachtin und das literarische Kochrezept
3.45 p.m. break
4.15 p.m. – Rainer STOLLMANN (Universität Bremen): Das Lachen der Groteske
5 p.m. – Stefan HULFELD, Rudi RISATTI und Andrea SOMMER­MATHIS: Closing discussion and tour of the exhibition

Download the programme here (in German only)

All lectures are held in original language. An english summary will be provided.


The comprehensive and richly illustrated book Groteske Komödie - in den Zeichnungen von Lodovico Ottavio Burnacini (1636-1707) was published by Rudi Risatti in 2019. This iconographic study sheds a new light onto the work of this master in the collection of the Theatermuseum and shows its significance for an understanding of the feasts and the Italian Commedia dell'arte during the baroque period in Europe.

The publication (ed. Rudi Risatti, 354 pages, Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag, German only) is available at the Museum shop and online, € 40 (incl. VAT).

Exhibition Trailer

Presentation Summaries
(in English)

Presentation Summaries (in English)




The conference is fully booked!



€ 40 (incl. MwSt.)
Available at the Museum's shop and online

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