Thierry Demaubus – “Momentary visions of permanence” in the Stuart Masque or the Eloquence of Speech through Picture


"Momentary visions of permanence" in the Stuart Masque or the Eloquence of Speech through Picture

Thierry Demaubus

Published in Connotations Vol. 10.2-3 (2000/01)


The Stuart masque has often been viewed as a performing art born of the collaboration between a poet and a stage designer. As far as Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones are concerned, this collaboration soon became a competition between two defenders of distinct cultures: the literary one for the poet, and the visual one for the architect, Inigo Jones, who strove to initiate a reluctant audience to the wonder of the Renaissance perspective designs. The "High and mightie Prince the architector"1) could then assume his rightful intellectual and artistic sovereignty. Accordingly, we shall try and define the conditions of emergence of a new form of eloquence within the masque, that bears witness to the complex theatricality which would have been in the air at court shows.

In the preface to Tethys Festival (1610), Samuel Daniel already acknowledged the secondary role of the poet :

… in these things wherin the only life consists in show, the art and invention of the architect gives the greatest grace, and is of most importance: ours (i.e., the poet's) the least part and of least note in the time of performance thereof; and therefor I have interseded the description of the artificial part, which only speaks M. Inigo Jones.2)

It is worth pointing out that Daniel makes a clear distinction between the masque−in−performance, which has several authors, of whom the stage designer was the most important, and the printed text that has only one author, the narrative "I" of the quoted passage. Moreover the authorial dramatic text, when adapted for the stage, was often changed beyond the author's control during the actual performance, [→page 269] sometimes by the king himself. James I and Charles I both acted as censors for the masques—the latter did not even need a license from the Master of the Revels—and were responsible for the obliteration of whole passages that they found unsuitable for their tastes or incompatible with the "present occasion."

Moreover the unpredictability of the kings's reactions and behaviour during the performance, James's in particular, made it impossible to forecast and include in the lead up to the performance that actually happened. Sometimes King James would find the masque boring, as during the performance of Ben Jonson's Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue (1618), which he interrupted in the middle with a shout, "What did they make me come here for? Devil take you, all dance."3) Of course, the printed text includes the dialogues which the spectators did not hear and does not include any indication of the king's behaviour. While it sometimes lacks accuracy as an account of the actual performance it shows its independence as an artistic text. This was a feature that Jonson stressed in his later masques, when he had turned away from what was initially a narration of the actual performance, with the poetic parts added to the dominating narrative text, to literary masques that are independent of their past staging. Sometimes these texts even pretended to have been staged when in fact they were not.

In other words, the text that has come down in print did not exist before the performance, as Jerzy Limon clearly explained. What did exist was a pre−text, or dramatic masque, that was also a part of a larger script for the performance, and which cannot be identified with the printed or literary masque.

Sometimes the stage machinery did not work properly, ruining the development of stage action. The printed version of Thomas Campion's Lord Hayes Masque (1607) describes a change of scenery that actually did not take place. A marginal note tells us that "Either by the simplicity, negligence or conspiracy of the painter, the passing away of the trees was somewhat hazarded, the patterne of them the same day having bene showne with much admiration, and the nine trees [→page 270] being left unsett together even to the same night."4) This implies that the description in the main text is anything but faithful, for it includes the change of scenery that should have taken place but actually did not. The printed masques often consider the actual performances as they ought to have been staged but not as they really were. Nearly all the printed texts do not anticipate their staging. In other words a theatrical production at court brings the dramatic masque to an end: it stops to exist once the production had ended. Because of its peculiar features, it cannot be repeated without significant changes in the text: the meanings produced during the particular performance are unique for the particular occasion and cannot be retrieved. On the other hand, the meanings created by the printed text are never the same as those of the performance.

From the beginning, the masques created coups de théâtre—amazing transformations, appearances, disappearances, and other special effects to make the audience gasp in astonishment. Such artifice was hardly in the tradition of ascetic Palladianism, but it might be said to be in one kind of classical tradition. Even Vitruvius speaks of revolving machinery.5) Splendid and surprising effects, moreover, had a long tradition in court entertainments, and Jones seems to have been willing to meet the demand within the conventions of the new stage, where theatrical aces could easily be kept up one's sleeve. The vacuity of mere spectacle was famously mocked by Jonson :

and I have met with those

That do cry up the machine, and the shows,
The majesty of Juno in the clouds,
And peering−forth of Iris in the shrouds!
The ascent of Lady Fame, which none could spy,
Not they that sided her, Dame Poetry,
Dame History, Dame Architecture, too,
And Goody Sculpture, brought with much ado
To hold her up. O shows! Shows! Mighty shows!
The eloquence of masques! What need of prose,
Or verse, or sense, to express immortal you?6)

[→page 271] All the effects Jonson refers to were staged in Chloridia (1631), the last Whitehall masque on which Jonson worked, and in which he clearly felt his own (rather few) words had been overwhelmed by Jones's celestial spectacle, as they probably were.

That the printed masques have hitherto been treated by a number of critics as a minor dramatic form was partly due to the typographical similarity of the extant texts to printed drama. In the printed, or literary masques there are no stage directions; instead of the projected staging we find descriptions of performances that have already taken place. These are not just any performances but the ones that took place on the night and in the place disclosed in the title.

In most cases the grammatical tense used in the descriptions in the masques is the simple past, which never happens in dramatic stage directions. Even when the present tense is used occasionally, it is what we call "praesens historicum." The "stage directions" Ben Jonson uses in a masque such as Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue (1618) do not forecast their own staging and are in fact narrative relations about a single performance that had already taken place. The poet is the only masque writer who tried at one point to discard the narrative character of printed masques in order to create a new literary form that would be independent of the past theatrical representation. He also more than once compared the art of writing with that of building. A writer, he declared, arranges words within a sentence much the same way that a builder brings stones together to form a wall: "The congruent and harmonious fitting of parts in a sentence, hath almost the fastning, and force of knitting, and connexion" Jonson wrote in Discoveries. "As in stones well squar'd, which will rise strong a great way without mortar."7) What a writer finally created was an object like a house. It is characteristic of Jonson to speak of literary works as objects which are consciously, solidly and monumentally constructed: built to last. Jonson often uttered the word "Architect" with contempt but also with praise.8) Architect and poet may have certain aims and functions for Jonson: each is concerned with construction and commemoration, and, up to a point, the terminology of the one art may be [→page 272] equally appropriated for the other. It was not a coincidence that Jonson himself had actually worked as a builder in the early 1590s. But building in itself is nothing: what matters is the life that animates a building. No one before him so instinctively perceived the correspondence between the fixed space of a house and the fixed space of the stage on which the masquers did their performance. This resulted in composite works made of poetic, dramatic, and narrative elements.

The narrative character of most of the extant texts is also strengthened by the appearance of a first−person narrator who often reminds the reader that he is not omniscient and that he describes the performance in the best way he can. The narration is always selective, and it may be treated as the author's account of what had actually happened during the performance. For instance, in Thomas Campion's Lord Hayes Masque (London, 1607) there is a typical example of the narrator's neglecting some of his material: "… about it [the stage] were plac't on wyer artificial Battes, and Owles, continually moving: with many other inuentions, the which for breuitie sake I pass by with silence."

The selective character of the printed texts is also evidenced by omissions. For instance, one of the characters, Antaeus, does not appear in the printed text of Jonson's Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, although his battle with Hercules obviously was a part of the masque−in−performance, for it is mentioned by an eye−witness in his description of the spectacle and is also alluded to in a sequel masque, For the Honour of Wales. In most masques the descriptions of dances and music are very brief, if mentioned at all.

The narrative descriptions are often very lengthy and detailed, for they tend to include the miracles of changing scenery, the wonders of costumes, stage action, and, occasionally, dances and music. This narrative part dominates the dialogues and lyrics in a number of printed texts, and it seems that the poetic parts function as "quotations" or illustrations of the narrative as the following excerpt from Inigo Jones's and James Shirley's The Triumph of Peace (1633) clearly shows:

After him rode Opinion and Confidence together; Opinion in an old−fashioned doublet of black velvet and trunk hose, a short cloak of the same with an antique cape, a black velvet cap pinched up, with a white fall, and a staff in his hand; Confidence in a slashed doublet parti−coloured, breeches suitable with points at knees, favours upon his breast and arm ; a broad−brimmed hat, tied up on one side, banded with a feather; a long lock of hair, trimmed with several coloured ribbons; wide boots, and great spurs with bells of rowels.9)

There would perhaps be nothing special in the quoted passage if it were not merely an excerpt from a lengthy description of more than twenty stage characters.

The dialogues often operate as an illustration of or an appendix to the main narrative part. Samuel Daniel himself, in Tethys Festival, declared that:

[→page 273] For so much shewes and spectacles of this nature are vsually registered, among the memorable acts of the time, being complements of State, both to shew magnificence and to celebrate the feasts to our greatest respects: it is expected (according now of the custome) that I, beeing imployed in the busines, should publish a description and forme of the late Mask where with all it pleased the Queenes most excellent Maiestie to solemnize the creation of the high and mightie Prince Henry, Prince of Wales, in regard to preserve the memorie thereof, and to satisfy their desires, who could have no other notice, but by others report of what was done …10).

Thus the text defines itself not as a masque but as "a description and forme" of a masque. There is also no doubt that following the performance, the texts were especially prepared for publication. In other words, they were written in their final form once the performance was over. These texts are basically journalistic in character, a feature that makes a number of printed masques resemble the descriptions of other courtly or civic events. Even their typographical layout is similar. As Paula Johnson pointed out :

The relative literary merits of a masque and pageant books are … less striking … than the common impulse to turn ephemeral entertainment into enduring text … the booklets share with another new phenomenon, the earliest "newspapers", an implicit assumption that the printed report validates the event.11)

[→page 274] Of course, only some of the masques had this ambition of being a precise account of a performance. However it was Ben Jonson who first noticed the potential of these journalistic narratives to become a new literary form, or even a new genre. For this new genre, the description would also play an important role in allegorizing the created world, which, in turn, creates several layers of meaning. In fact, it took some time before Ben Jonson found the results he expected. Stephen Orgel has noted:

Just as it is clear that Jonson alone conceived of the masque as literature, so it is equally clear that this was his primary concern for it… . Nevertheless, there is a curious uncertainty in his theorizing, as if he did not know quite when to begin to establish his new literary form. In the learned footnotes and prefaces we sense that Jonson somehow felt a need to vindicate his attempt to treat the masques as significant didactic poetry.12)

In this sense one may define the literary masque as a form dealing with a spectacle, specifically the court spectacle of the early Stuart epoch. The literary masque reconstructs but at the same time postulates specific attitudes to court performances. It intervenes in the process of perception, by explaining, for instance, the complex symbolism of the non−verbal spectacle signs. Sometimes the 'meaning' of music was explained, as in Ben Jonson's The Masque of Queens (1609), where loud and triumphant music wins over "strange music," to which the hags dance wildly. And the author of the printed text explains to the reader that the meaning of this was "that the sounde of a virtuous fame is able to scatter and affright all that threaten yt."13) In all of his masques Jonson quotes (or refers to) over seventy authors, which makes him exceptional among masque writers.

The shift from the fully annotated and narrative text to a poetic text is well illustrated by the development of Ben Jonson's masques. In his study of Ben Jonson's Workes, Timothy Murray discusses at length the masques included in the first volume. Murray notes that "long and detailed descriptions of masquers and machines often dominate the space and figure of the poetry, performing visually and linguistically [→page 275] as the dominant element of spectacle." Evoking the digressive character of Jonson's descriptions, he infers that :

Jonson's frequent digressions distinguish his masques printed in the folio of 1616 from other printed accounts of spectacles and masques. Printed descriptions of masques normally focus on loyal reports of the events, costumes, and scenery without lapsing into interpretation or discussion of historical precedents. While most descriptive reports call attention to the figure of the prince, Jonson's annotative accounts display the presence of the author.14)

None of the masques written after 1610 and printed in the first folio, and very few added to the second folio of 1640, include elaborate descriptions or notes. Moreover, it seems that all masques written by other poets are selective interpretations of actual performances, so this feature does not make Jonson distinct. We must also bear in mind that the laws that govern the literary masque are to a large extent the laws of the constantly improved illusionistic stage, where, quite contrary to the laws of empirical reality, stars can sing and dance; islands can float like sailboats; huge rocks can open and close, disclosing beautiful palaces, where the bottom of the ocean will uncover mysterious worlds and people will undergo miraculous transformations and metamorphoses, as in Ovid, turning into animals, plants, and beasts.

One has to remember that the illusionistic stage was not at all easy for contemporaries to capture. Every now and then uninitiated spectators complained that, for instance, on the stage "there were fish but no water."15) For the knowledgeable reader the laws that govern the literary masque are not the creation of a flamboyant imagination but refer to a specific stage tradition and to artistic reality, where they can actually operate. The created world of a literary text is thus created on the basis of rules taken from a different system—that of the theatre. Different literary traditions lie behind mottos, quotations, and explanatory notes. These range from the Bible and ancient Roman and Greek authors through medieval theologians to contemporary commentators on these authors. Contemporary emblem books are also a very important, if not essential, source for nearly all the masques and [→page 276] especially for the masques−in−performance, to the point that makes it possible to see the latter as three−dimensional "theatrical emblems". The fact that a literary text draws from both spectacle and literature may also be an attribute of drama. But the literary masque is anything but drama. It does not forecast its own staging. On the contrary, it is a single courtly spectacle that is "transmuted," into the language of literature. In other words, without the performance, the literary masque would not be created. Yet there have been some exceptions such as Jonson's Neptune's Triumph (1624), the staging of which had been postponed, due to a diplomatic quarrel. Jonson's text is not drama because it pretends to have been staged and as such is a description of a fictional performance, and it does not forecast its own staging. What Jonson did here is of great significance: he consciously created a text that has been defined as a literary masque by including in the created world a description of a court performance that never took place. Thus his text pretends to have been staged. Interestingly, following the rules of the convention, Jonson gives fictitious details concerning the time and place of the performance on the title page. Furthermore, he even includes King James in his text and describes the monarch as taking part in the performance, which he never did. This example shows that it was still considered impossible to create a literary masque without the performance. At the same time, however, the absence of an actual performance could suggest an evolution of the genre in the direction of full autonomy, all in accordance with Jonson's views on the masque and his deep conviction that real values are unnecessarily suppressed by the dominance of the spectacle. To preserve these values he turned to strictly literary means of expression, for which the performance was not relevant at all.

Text was not antithetic to visual images during the Renaissance. As Ben Jonson put it: "Whosoever loves not Picture is injurious to Truth: and all the wisdome of Poetry."16)

For Jonson there is a link between text and image without which there is no possible truth. Every visual image evokes a symbol, the expression of a literary metaphor. Hence Jonson's interest in and his [→page 277] time for hieroglyphics, the oldest language, and the closest to wisdom in so far as it unifies the image with the word and creates a link between reality, image and thought.

The conceits of the mind are Pictures of things, and the tongue is the interpreter of those pictures.17)

Ben Jonson could not but show his admiration for the wonders of image:

Yet it doth so enter, and penetrate the inmost affection (being done by an excellent Artificer) as sometimes it orecomes the power of speech and oratory.18)

For Jonson, an image directly addresses the soul:19) there could never be any spectacle which would not speak to the eye or to the ear, as Prospero would have it in the Tempest (4.1.59). In his analysis of Aristotle's philosophy, Francesco Robortello (1548) observed that the spectacle ("apparatus") represents the very essence of drama and must embody all the elements defined by Aristotle: melody, diction, thought, characters, plot.20) According to Robortello, the quality of a play lies in its capacity to arouse feelings of wonder and admiration through the description of magic. And as far as Aristotle is concerned, poetry aims at filling the mind with wonder. For, as far as the Renaissance viewer is concerned, reality and wonder were neither distinct nor antithetic words. Thus, in the masque, the wonder of this spectacular stage machinery lay in the accuracy and veracity of its optical illusions.

Yet, the eloquence of the masque may not necessarily lie in the literary form of the printed text. There is undoubtedly, as we shall see while evoking Inigo Jones's role in the masque−in−performance, a true eloquence of speech through picture coinciding with the development of a visual culture in the masque.

As the marginal notes in his books indicate, Jones obviously took seriously Vitruvius's idea "that the Architect should be a man of letters," and Daniele Barbaro's comment, "So it is needful to read, and [→page 278] what he reads turn over in his mind."21) These notes, and the longer ones in the Roman Sketchbook, give evidence of that skill for individual expression which is shared by so many contemporaries of Shakespeare; but it is significant that he left no important piece of writingthe study of Stonehenge remained in note form, and it was his pupil Webb rather than Jones himself who seems to have planned a treatise on architecture.22) And the annotations are private, not public utterances. One of them is revealing of Jones's attitude to artists interpreting and justifying their work in public. It refers to a story in Plutarch:

… as happened in Athens with two architects, summoned to carry out a public commission, and wishing to debate which of them was the more excellent master; one, who was a very capable speaker and knew exactly how to expound his ideas, by a prepared speech got the people to choose him, as he was so skilful at telling them how he would deal with the project; the other, who was a much more excellent master, but incompetent at putting two words together, said: Athenians, everything which that man has talked about so ably I would show you with the actual work itself.23)

Jones's note sums this up quite abruptly: "of too Athenia[n] ⁄ architectes. The ⁄one could spe⁄ake. The other ⁄ could do ye thinge."24)

This intricate silence is somehow rather logical. By becoming a writer, Jones would have created doubts about his overall purpose, whereas by refraining from doing so, he secured its clarity. That clarity is emphasised in the moment of crisis, the quarrel with Jonson, which has often been considered by critics as a quarrel with the magnified literariness of English culture. D. J. Gordon has shown that the proscenium of Albion's Triumph (1632), the first masque after the break, with its symbolic figures of Theory and Practice, is Jones's argument against his abandoned colleague.25) And the full force of the retort lies not just in the concepts represented but in the medium of representation, painting. Paolo Pino has long since suggested that painting was a language unto itself, and not translatable into words.26) Jones for his part demonstrates quite simply that words are not essential to the production of a discourse, and refers implicitly to a whole body of discourse produced by non−verbal means—his own designs.

[→page 279] To reinforce this, Jones permits one pointed utterance at the beginning of the text (written by Aurelian Townshend, probably under his close supervision). The action opens with the descent of "Mercury, the messenger of Jove," to announce the coming triumph of the Emperor Albanactus (Charles I), whose heroic virtues are "infinite." He makes his message brief, declaring that the triumph itself will be a visible demonstration, making words unnecessary: "we speak in acts, and scorn words trifling scenes."27) The self−conscious play on notions of speaking and enacting, and the tone of aphoristic authority, make this into a general statement about meaning in the masque, following close after Jones's pictured statement on the proscenium. Under the guise of Mercury the mediator—the role which Bolton had assigned to him at the very beginning of his career, and which he takes up again at the beginning of this new phase—Jones declares that the new visual discourse he is introducing into England (Albion in the masque) is not a language of words but a more potent language of acts. The god's 'embassage' is welcomed by a chorus of poets, from their duly subordinate position.28) Masques were always full of political allusions, and Jones is simply expanding this practice into the politics of culture, as those courtiers who were on the same wavelength as him—a growing number by this time, including the King—would have recognised.

In his Expostulation with Inigo Jones Jonson refutes the idea that the eyes alone can be organs of understanding; or that the visual element in the masques can be understandable in its own right without the aid of a text.29)

Jones could utter such a radical statement because for the last quarter−century his pictorial discourse had been in a sense underestimated by Jonson. The spectators of the masque, for most of whom reading was the paradigm of interpretation, were able to read Jones's designs with the help of Jonson's texts, which sometimes interpreted the spectacle directly and always accompanied it significantly. Working in this assured context, Jones proceeded to acquaint them with unfamiliar advances in the 'language' of art, some so unfamiliar as to force them to rethink their ideas about his 'language,' to the extent of seeing [→page 280] that it was sui generis and not to be read as words are read. An enlarged knowledge of the new art of the Renaissance involved for the English a new conception of art itself, and of how it worked; which in turn led to a new way of looking at the world.

These new perceptions were brought about by Jones's use of perspective, which, Roy Strong has suggested, radically changed his public's sense of vision.30) Most of them had been conditioned by the non−realist aesthetic of Elizabethan painting, where the representation of space was subjected to bold two−dimensional design, as if the intricate researches of the Italian Quattrocento into linear perspective had never taken place. This aesthetic was powerfully exemplified in the numerous portraits of the Queen, becoming by association the style of majesty, and sharing the authority of the monarchy; and that style's tendency to abstraction was reinforced by the doctrine of representing monarchs according to abstract principles.31)

It was left to Jones, in his set designs, to take the courtiers in effect through the history of perspective since the fifteenth century. Very gradually, they acquired what Franciscus Junius called "eruditos oculos,"32) began to look with new eyes. The old conventions of pictorial space went on flourishing in Jacobean painting. One especially ironic throwback is Paul van Somer's portrait of James I in about 1620. The King stands in front of Jones's new Banqueting House, imagined as complete although still under construction, the foreground and background images being pressed together à la Hilliard, and the point emphasised by the inscription on an intervening window "Dieu et mon droit," making the building part of a metaphor of divine right. There is a contradiction between the meaning of Jones's revolutionary new structure and the antiquated composition into which it is drafted. Van Somer's deference to the conservative tendencies in English taste shows what an uphill battle Jones had in bringing about a "rebirth of pictorial space."

Jones's carefully composed pictures gave the theatrical gimmickry a new kind of focus, enhanced—in theory—by special lighting effects, [→page 281] while the scenic stage allowed the machinery to be more easily concealed.

The strategy of reproducing the work of others was a means of reanimating it to new effect. A good example of this is the way he enlisted the great art collections of the Whitehall group, bringing them literally onto the public stage so as to extend their influence. In Albion's Triumph he made a grand scenic tableau out of the Arundel marbles, as a setting for a pastiche of Mantegna's Triumph of Caesar, which had only just arrived in the royal collection.33) Jones often takes very small or reticent items from the collections and gives them a new impact by magnifying them. The Albani drawing used for Coelum Britannicum is a case in point. Another is the Elsheimer landscape background used in Luminalia. Elsheimer's tiny pictures were strongly represented in the Arundel collection.34)

But the masque scenes were not only vehicles for staging other works of art: they were works of art in themselves. Jones made the point clearly in 1632, at the start of the new era of his own ascendancy, after Jonson's dismissal. Describing the proscenium and opening scene of Tempe Restored (the companion piece to Albion's Triumph) he wrote:

lest I should be too long in the description of the frame, I will go to the picture itself; and indeed these shows are nothing else but pictures with light and motion.35)

The idea of seeing stage scenery not just as a mixed product to which painting contributes but as, overall, a mode of painting in itself comes out of sixteenth−century Italy. The general view of painting and its development which is taken by Italian theorists implicitly points forward to Jones's idea of masques as pictures. Vasari himself required that a successful composition should not seem merely painted but have the appearance of three−dimensionality and be "living and truthful."36) The logical issue of Vasari's history of painting in the Lives would necessarily be that eventually it should literally come to life, as it did in the tableaux vivants of the baroque theatre. Jones's conception [→page 282] of the masque in performance fits in with this context when he mentions his "shows" as "pictures with light and motion." Yet, cut off from the general radiance of the auditorium in an enclosed box, the painted pictures risked becoming virtually invisible at much distance from the stage: the farther upstage scenery or performers were placed the more obscure they would have become. Changes in the levels of luminosity were nothing comparable to the effects obtainable in the modern theatre, and light which could be neither concentrated nor projected, save with the means of reflectors, would have produced a glow rather than, as Jonson enthusiastically describes an effect in The Masque of Blackness, "a glorious beam." Nonetheless, relative changes in light levels would have been registered by those watching, and however diffuse the light may have been, Jones certainly grouped oil lamps and candles on and around scenic pieces to create concentrated radiance, sometimes to reflect back on the masquers and sometimes in full view, as part of the decoration of the scene. Such effects were frequently reserved for the moment when masques were revealed, retaining the old connection between masked entries and light.37)

To assert that the masques are pictures is to ask the spectators to think up new ways of viewing them. Because the action at times moved out of the proscenium frame into the hall, and the masquers finally danced with chosen spectators, the pictures were not lastingly enclosed within a separate world of art. And because most spectators sat to the side of the stage, they could not scan and interpret the perspective as comfortably as the privileged group who had a frontal view. By making a point about "pictures," Jones is asking for a more subtle response than he had done in the past when requiring an understanding of perspective. What is called for is a more sophisticated notion of what a picture is, of an organised but also dynamic representation which includes and transcends its own limits—a notion which is typically baroque. This is the time, just after the conflict with Jonson, when Jones seems to leave the more detailed technical execution of the masques to John Webb. The descriptions in the published texts now depict effects rather than causes, not wondrous feats of [→page 283] scenic engineering so much as beautiful visual compositions. The masques are described as if they were pictures. When Rubens's allegories were set in the ceiling of the Banqueting House in 1635, they must have looked close in scale and content to the masque scenes displayed year after year in the same place. Jones's alleged contribution to the ceiling programme38) can hardly be put into question: he had definitely become an expert in the conception of such programmes for large−scale pictures. For, as John Astington reminds us, "painters at court were expected to be able to work on both detailed and large−scale decorative projects in a variety of media, to be capable of executing designs and figurative representations, to create trompe−l'œil effects, to have knowledge of classical and mannerist styles of ornament, to have some skill in "prospective," and to be able to work successfully on a variety of surfaces, including wood, stone, metal, plaster, and cloth."39)

It is worth pointing out that the baroque dimension of the Stuart masques has not yet been thoroughly explored; a subject that seems worth our attention in spite of the fact that the concept of the baroque is itself open to question.

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