The texts and depictions of the vessels testify that in the ancient performances there must have a kind of scenography. However, we should imagine this “scenery” as very different from what we have in mind today.
The natural environment surrounding the theatre and the building of the skene served as auxiliary elements for the action. For instance, the planted with trees sanctuary in front of the theatre of Dionysus, where the tragedy Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles was presented for the first time, symbolized the sacred grove of Eumenides, the place where the plot took place. Since the middle of the 5th century B.C., a central door was added to the initially wooden scene building through which the hypocrites went in and out. Later on, the doors were usually three. In the tragedy, the skene usually depicted a palace or a temple, while in comedy one or more houses, where resided the characters of the play.
Among the most essential parts of the scenery of an ancient performance were the wooden paintings, placed on the façade of the skene. Depending on the place of action of the play, landscapes or buildings were depicted. Even a simple symbol drawn on the painting might have been enough, such as a tree which reminded of a grove or a fish which made the spectators think of the sea. In any case, the same paintings were used in several plays.
Fragment of a vessel which is probably depicting a scene of an unknown tragedy performance. Two hypocrites are performing in front of a portico with columns, part of the skene building (ca 350 B.C.), Martin von Wagner Museum Würzburg.