On Cloud Machinery
Alessandra Buccheri in “The Spectacle of Clouds” traces the interlinked history of cloud paintings in renaissance chapels and the use of cloud machinery in theatre stages.
Buccheri notes that the ubiquitous uses of clouds in renaissance painting was deeply influenced by the moving clouds as stage props used in religious spectacle of late medieval times. She argues that it was “stagecraft that exerted a greater influence on painting, and not the other way around”.
Buccheri underlines how the theatrical context in which cloud machinery was developed was ubiquitous in early renaissance, coupled to the use of “lighting, chanting, music” which enhanced the intensity of the illusion. This prompted “religious theatre, from the fourteenth century onwards” to become “a useful model to look at for painters who wanted to represent a seemingly real three-dimensional heaven”.
In Florentine art, there use of clouds in a theatrical fashion in sculptures and paintings portraying the Annunciation, the Assumption and Ascension, can possibly be traced to the significant development of the cloud machinery. This phenomenon became striking from the fourteenth century onwards, when Florentine art moved from a symbolic to a more overtly narrative approach. According to some historians, it was because of this new narrative approach that artists, searching for a new language, turned to theatre to find new ideas and spatial solutions. 1
Gabriel Paiuk (2021): Sound Theory (The Clouds)