Flying Machines

Early Illusionistic (16th Century)

One of the most popular effects on the illusionistic stage was the flying effect. Since most of the early theatres were temporary, the overhead structure was not able to support sophisticated flying effects. The machinery of Furttenbach and Sabbattini is very crude compared with the machinery;y used in the permanent theatre and opera houses of the mid to late seventeenth century.

Sabbattini's Cloud Flying Machine

Sabbattini described several different flying effects. Most of them required a cloud to mask the mechanism. One method described "how to make a cloud with people in it descend directly on to the stage from the heavens [#43]. It required a vertical track mounted on the rear partition and horizontal beam with a cloud at its end that could be pulled up and down in the track by a winch.

Sabbattini Cloud Machine

Sabbattini Cloud Machine On Stage

Sabbattini described a similar machine [#50] that allowed a person to be lowered to the stage "without using a cloud so that he may immediately walk about and dance." The technology for this device was very crude compared to the effects that followed a few years later.

the development of scenice spectacle


usittThis material is made possible, in part, by a grant from the New Initiatives Fund, United States Institute for Theatre Technology and by grants from the University Research Council, Cratis D. Williams Graduate School, Appalachian State University.


Dr. Frank Mohler
Department of Theatre & Dance
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608

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