"Inigo Jones is the most important single figure in the arts in seventeenth-century England. Architect, painter, engineer, designer, connoisseur, author, theoretician, he occupied a key position for nearly half a century at the courts of James I and Charles I."
Stephen Orgel and Roy Strong, 1973
Inigo Jones: the theatre of the Stuart court, volume 1

Inigo Jones: Architect, set creator and costume designer

Lighting and Costume
Inigo Jones used lighting very effectively as part of his designs. The space would be lit by candles; these would have the effect not only of reflecting sparkles in the costumes, but also creating a smoky space for performing, dancing and viewing. The candles might be hung using iron wires and rods to hold up multiple candles at once; sometimes on pully systems to lower and raise them. Reflective surfaces would be placed around the room to add to the effect of the lighting. George Chapman commented on the design of the costumes, with the reflective “spangle[es] or spark[les]” which allowed them to be “with ease discovered” by anybody watching.

Did you know?
Inigo Jones is considered by some to be the “first English architect”. He spent a long time in Italy studying architecture, and Italian design influenced his own stage and costume designs.

“This sight altogether was, for the difficulty of engining and the number of persons, the greatest that hath been seen here in our time. For the apparitions of such as came down in the air, and the choruses standing beneath, arrived to the number of fifty persons, all richly attired, showing the magnificence of the court of England.”
Aurelian Townshend, 1632
Tempe Restored

Inigo Jones introduced the Italian Renaissance style into England, transforming the medieval and Tudor style which had previously persisted. In 1615 he was appointed to the position of Surveyor of the King’s Works, effectively becoming the royal architect. He was a highly influential architect, however only seven of his designs remain visible now, with the Banqueting House (the site of many masque events) being one which is still standing in central London. He made use of perspective sets throughout his time designing masques for the court, as well as using fly galleries to allow performers to fly in, a variety of levels, and complex stage machinery to create a magical atmosphere. His costumes were influenced by a variety of continental designs, and even before Henrietta Maria arrived at court, the French influence is very visible. Particularly through the Ballet de Cour, French and Italian design influence can be seen to have impacted on the way Jones’ designs developed.

These images, of Inigo Jones’ designs, show the style of costume which he created for the Stuart Masques. All images are from

Inigo Jones: the man

Inigo Jones was born in London in July, 1573. Although we are not sure of the specifics of his education, we do know that he travelled to the continent, and specifically to Italy (see the next tab for a more detailed look at these travels). In particular, his time in Venice influenced his later designs; the designs of Andrea Palladio, a well-renowned Late Renaissance artist, were studied professionally by Jones. He may have spent time working for King Christian of Denmark whilst on his travels.

In 1615, Jones was back in England and had been appointed Surveyor of the King’s Works, a position he held until 1642 and the start of the highly disruptive Civil War. He was involved with the court masque culture, in charge of many of the costumes and stage designs which were lavish, technical, and dazzling. His complex stage machinery allowed the masques to have spectacular flying machinery, and changes in scene – although the machinery could be loud it was new and exciting for the courtiers to watch. Jones created fantastical worlds for these performances. For many of his projects, he worked alongside Ben Jonson, with whom he had a rather tumultuous relationship. Many of his designs survive and can be viewed in the archives of Chatsworth House.

His architecture transformed the face of England, introducing classical Renaissance design – he designed many projects, not all of which were built, and only a few survive; the Banqueting House, the Queen’s House at Greenwich (his first important task as Surveyor), and The Queen’s Chapel (Marlborough Gate) are three examples. He also helped design the Old St Paul’s which burnt down in the fire of London, adding a large portico at its western end. He also designed London’s first square at Covent Garden in 1630.

Jones died in London in 1652 – having lived to watch the start of the Interregnum and the start of the deterioration of art and cultural works; although, art patronage did not end with the civil war, and Cromwell even made use of Masques, amongst other artistic expressions, during his time as Lord Protector.

We know that Jones travelled before 1603, quite probably with the help of a patron, and he definitely spent time in Italy (according to his friend John Webb), and quite possibly in Denmark with King Christian. Upon James I’s accession, Jones travelled with the Earl of Rutland to Copenhagen to present Anne’s brother, King Christian, with the Order of the Garter. On his return he had become rather well-known as a traveller who could employ “rare devices”, influenced by his foreign study, to his settings for masques. Whilst at court he continued to travel infrequently, spending time in France as a messenger in 1609. He also spent time in the train of the Earl of Arundel, who was at the beginning of a long art-collecting career, as well as being a patron of artists.

In 1613, Jones accompanied the Earl of Arundel on his Grand Tour of Europe, making their way through France, Switzerland, Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Genoa, Florence, Rome and Naples. At this time, it was common for young, aristocratic men, to undertake a Grand Tour as a way to complete their education – as Jones did here. This concept began in the Elizabethan age and had it’s heyday in the eighteenth century. The route which Jones undertook was fairly traditional; allowing talented artists with patrons and young aristocrats to collect Italian and Renaissance art. Such tours allowed for an exchange of culture and a development of language skills. Grand Tours encouraged young men to bring home the ideas of continental Europe.

Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones created some of the most magnificent spectacles of the century through their court masque designs. The two collaborated peacefully for a long time – with the stage and costume designs complimenting the mythical and allegorical nature of the text provided by Jonson. However, the praise that Jones received for his costumes and staging outweighed that which was received by Jonson for his texts and seems to have evoked jealousy in Jonson. This culminated with Jonson’s refusal to credit Inigo Jones in one of his folios, leading to a huge rift, and sealing Jonson’s fall from courtly grace. Jones was so angry, that he ensured, through his contacts at court, that Jonson was not commissioned to write another court masque. Inigo Jones continued his career at court, which only deteriorated with the Civil War and beheading of Charles I.

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