Stage curtains are works in the border zone between applied art and high art, having a special place on account of their function and peculiar theme in the oeuvre of some 19th century artists. In that of Sándor Liezen-Mayer the salient places are taken by painting and literary illustration, but in indirect relationship with illustration his commissions to design stage curtains also constituted an organic part of the oeuvre. Designing the program and executing the painted stage curtains was squeezed to the periphery of 19th century painting, whereas in that-time art life it had an important place as an artistic task of great prestige since the late 18th century. With the demotion of allegoric representations into the background the huge surfaces of stage curtains began to feature compositions of a different type, which drew partly on the earlier stock of allegorical elements and partly on literary motifs.
Liezen-Mayer’s contemporary and former colleague at the Academy Hans Makart produced the important pieces of the last great period of curtain decoration, which might have partly been the model for the Hungarian artist, too. Liezen-Mayer’s two curtain designs known today are from the beginning and end of his career, as if framing the oeuvre. The two designs separated by some thirty years are variants of the same allegorical scene: Apollo, the ancient god of arts is seen in an easily interpreted composition, surrounded by diverse attributes and allegorical figures as an illustration of the mythological tradition. Only plans survive of the two – colour schemes and large cartoons –; the comparison of the two provides a firm basis to trace the change in the artist’s outlook over his career.