In-between stage life and everyday life: Curtains and their pictorial representations

Allmer A.

TEXTILE-THE JOURNAL OF CLOTH & CULTURE, vol.6, no.1, pp.18-31, 2008 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 6 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.2752/175183508x288671
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.18-31
  • Keywords: curtains, theater, performance, representation, revelation, narration, curiosity, trompe l'oeil, illusionism
  • Dokuz Eylül University Affiliated: No


Besides their practical function of separating stage from auditorium, or that of serving as a backdrop, curtains have been a fundamental symbol of theater spaces. Curtains, by all means, differentiate the two levels of existence between audience and actors, as well as between the real world and the stage world. This article will illuminate the intersection of theater curtains with the rhetoric of painted curtains. Curtains in theaters and curtains painted on canvas draw on similar practical and symbolic values. They both protect what is behind but at the same time they sustain the hope that what is secret behind them might be revealed at any moment. The dichotomy between inside and outside, hidden and revealed, given and withheld, which is fundamental to theater, has been a source of endless fascination for painters throughout history. The desired effects of revelation, narration, and illusionism achieved by painted curtains will be explored in selected examples from seventeenth-century Dutch paintings.