The Magic Space

Stage – Image – Model

2. Erklärung

In the Theatermuseum there is an exhibition about models used in theater.

They have more than 1,000 objects in the collection!

Let’s begin with a game…



Question 1/6: What does this stage design model depict?

Question 2/6: Where are we?


Question 3/6: For which piece was this model created?

Question 4/6: In which country does this piece take place?

Question 5/6: Where does the audience sit in this production?

Question 6/6
When was this model made?



4. Was sind Modelle

What are models?

Models mimic, in a smaller form, the appearance of interior spaces and buildings. They can also simulate the engineering of mechanical devices. In theater, models are frequently utilized. Because there are many different needs, various model types exist.

Let’s look at different types of models used for theater…

Stage Design Models are three-dimensional constructions which show the decoraton of a stage at a certain scale.

This model was created in 1786 and presents the stage design for a production at a theater in Venice. Here the Baroque idea of backdrops and side wings dominate: with flat, painted elements the impression of a magnificant hall is conveyed.

← Info

Stage Design Model
Palace Hall with Grand Staircase
Venice, Theater
San Giovanni Grisostomo

Artist: Lorenzo Sacchetti (1759–1834)

Models for General Decoration are designs for stage decorations which could be used for multiple theater pieces.

Info →

Model for General Decoration: Gothic Hall
King Lear
(William Shakespeare)
Nathan the Wise
(Gottfried Ephraim Lessing)
The Nibelungs
(Friedrich Hebbel)
after 1786
Vienna, Hofburgtheater


Artist: Gilbert Lehner (1844–1923)

In the 19th century each theater owned a so-called “Fundusˮ of decorations: e.g. forest and mountain landscapes, medieval castles and interiors of all styles. The ˮFundusˮ allowed for the operation of a theater to be cost-effective and efficient.

Architectural models show us the nature of buildings and their parts.

Around the cult of the god Dionysus emerged the theater of antiquity and the drama. The public sat around the Orchestra upon which the chorus appeared. Behind this was the stage, called the Proskenion. The acting space was demarcated by the Skene, the stage shell and the Paraskenien on both sides which was supported by six doric columns.

← Info

Architectural Model
Theater of Dionysus
4th c. BCE / 1936


Fabrication: Franz von Reiner

→ Details


Skene & Proskenion


Technical Models simulate the workings of stage machines. In the 19th century technical Models had an especially important function.

Info →

Technical Model
The African
(Music: Giacomo Mayerbeer)
Vienna, Hofoper


Artist:  Carlo Brioschi (1826–1895), Theodor Jachimowicz (1800–1889)

In Act 2 of the opera The African by Giacomo Meyerbeer the fleet of Vasco da Gama encounters a violent thunder storm. The ship is expected to be set into motion—a great challenge for the technicians and carpenters. How could this be accomplished? We will discover this in the next chapter of this site.

→ Technical details

Reconstruction models are produced to record and remember already finished buildings or important theatrical events. They also have the didatic function of illustrating clearly specific stage performances.

Info →

Reconstruction Model:
Viennese Good Friday Play



Artists: Traude Baumgartner, Franz von Reiner, Ferry Windberger (1915–2008)

This model was built on occassion of the Internationalen Ausstellung für Theaterkunst (International Exhibition of Theater Arts). It reconstructs one of the Good Friday Plays which were performed in St. Stephen’s Cathedral—a tradition dating back to the 13th century.

Dioramas, peep-hole boxes and panoramas—what we generally call display cases—are scenes in which model figures and landscapes are presented, often with semicircular, painted backgrounds.

The viewer looks from the front side through a frame behind which in different levels—with the use of perspectival tricks—a scene is represented. These were in many ways the precursors of early cinema and television.

← Info

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
(Jules Verne)
19th c.


Artist: Unknown

5. Zeitreise

Accompany me now on a journey back in time through the world of models



Theater came into being in Greece in the 5th century BCE. Tragedies and comedies of Antiquity still remain to this day in the repertoire of many stages and call for artists to deliver contemporary interpretations. The texts of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides form the basis of this work. But why are they so popular? Perhaps because their material is so timeless. Their goal is a purification (catharsis) of the states of feeling which leads to insight—such as Aristotle writes in his Poetics.

Greek grove with temple of Pallas Athena

Stage Design Model
Vienna, Hofburgtheater
Artist: Gilbert Lehner (1844–1923)

A Roman hall

Model for General Decoration
Presumably for Julius Caesar
(William Shakespeare)
circa 1800
Vienna, Hofburgtheater
Artist: Gilbert Lehner (1844–1923)


Middle Ages

The Theater of the Middle Ages was strongly influenced by religious themes. As early as the 9th century Easter and Passion plays were performed by clerics and occassionally by laypeople in market squares of villages and cities. Other themes stem from medieval legends, for example, the story of the crestfallen King Lear or the Knight of the Holy Grail, Parsifal.

In front of the Palace of the Duke of Albany

Stage Design Model
King Lear
(William Shakespeare)
Vienna, Burgtheater
Artist: Robert Kaustky (1895–1962)

Hall in the castle of the (Holy) Grail

Stage Design Model
(Richard Wagner)
Vienna, Hofoper
Artist: Alfred Roller (1855–1920)



In the Renaissance, knowledge and research took central stage. With the discovery of new lands, especially the Americas in 1492, the era of Humanism began. The life of these new times was strongly influenced by trade. First, maritime republics such as Venice and Genua followed by kingdoms including Spain, England and France fought one another for control of the seas.

On the deck of a ship

Technical Model
The African
(Music: Giacomo Meyerbeer)
Vienna, Hofoper
Artists: Carlo Brioschi (1826–1895),
Theodor Jachimowicz (1800–1889)

→ more

The body of the ship stands on a construction of inclined, panelled bays arranged parallel to one another. This is moved back and forth by workers using strong rollers and cables. Together it creates the illusion of a rocking motion.


Barque & Rococo

During the Baroque period theater played a very prominent role. Based on the pioneering models of the Renaissance new theater buildings arose with sophisticated stage machinery which was often considered a wonder of engineering. Authors, composers, and stage designers from all countries were invited to stage magical spectacles through a combination of text, music and imagery. These stagings, however, did not just serve for amusement alone, but also as an homage to the powerful, who saw their power reflected through these productions.

A reconstruction model of the 1668 production of Il Pomo d’oro

…The stage design was devised by Lodovico Ottavio Burnacini

Reconstruction Model.
Il pomo d'oro
Artist: Atelier Feri Schwarz

→ more

For the Exhibition of European Theater (Europäische Theaterausstellung) which took place in Vienna in 1955 a reconstruction model was built of the 1668 opera Il pomo d’oro on the basis of historic engravings. The scene depicted takes place in the palace courtyard of Paris who must decide which of the divine rivals, Juno, Pallas Athena or Venus is the most beautiful. With the use of a mechanical device the model is able to simulate the entrance of three figures from the rigging above.



Industrialization, revolution and progress on one side, the emphasizing of feeling and a return to chivalric virtures of the Middle Ages on the other: these are the motivating forces for art and drama in the 19th century. Many of these trends are mirrored in the themes of theater pieces. Ferdinand Raimund and Johann Nestroy, two prominent, popular poets from Austria were critics of the political and social conditions of the time. One embedded such issues in legends and fairy tale worlds the other in marvelous acrobatics of speech.

Landscape with ruin

Stage Design Model
The Robbers
(Friedrich Schiller)
Vienna, Hofburgtheater
Artist: Unknown

→ mehr

The moving backdrop was one of the biggest parts of mechanical theater in the 19th century. With a length of 1,259 cm one could watch a trip down the Danube from Walhalla to Esztergom in Hungary. It’s construction is reminiscent of an of upright conveyor belt. Several subjects are painted side by side on a long piece of fabric sewn together to form an endless loop. By means of two vertical rollers the scene can then be set into motion. The remains of the original moving-backdrops (long wooden rolls) could be admired in the machinery of the Theater in der Josefstadt until 1923.

Model Component (moving backdrop)
The Magic Veil
(Franz Xaver Told)
11.2.1842 (world premiere)
Vienna, Theater in der Josefstadt
Artist: Theodor Jachimowicz (1800–1889)


Avant-garde & Contemporary

At the turn of the 20th century, a search for alternative forms and an experimentation with the concept of stage began. The step from a theater of illusion to a form of theater open for interpretation, from the picture stage to the spatial stage was completed. Stage and drama of the present are designed in a multi-layered way: in addition to the traditional peephole stage with its built, illusionistic decorations, constructivist spatial contexts and fantastic spaces lead to abstraction and associative stages.

Palace of Herod

Stage Design Model
(Oscar Wilde)
Moscow, Kamerny Theater
Artist: Alexandra Exter (1882–1949)

Egyptian desert

Stage Design Model
Caesar and Cleopatra
(George Bernard Shaw)
Vienna, Hofburgtheater
Artist: Remigius Geyling (1878–1974)

Stage Design Model
(Nader Mashayekhi)
1997(Nader Mashayekhi)
Vienna, Museumsquartier
Artist: Bernhard Hammer (b. 1961)

We have seen a lot…

But it is far from over!

The journey continues in the exhibition…

5. Section

About the exhibition

Opening hours

Daily except Tuesdays 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Entrance fees & How to get there

Online Ticket


Find Events in our calendar (german).


Theatermuseum, Palais Lobkowitz, Lobkowitzplatz 2, 1010 Vienna
T +43 1 525 24 3460,,

Concept: Ulrike Dembski & Rudi Risatti, editor: Annette Schäfer, realization: Rita Neulinger, video animation: Barbara Schwertführer, image editing: Sanela Antic, English translation: Alexander McCargar



© 2016 KHM-Museumsverband Impressum und AGB



to top