Moving Panorama

Moving panorama - Wikipedia

“Panorama” has several meanings, but they center on a wide view, like a movie camera panning a scene from left to right(“panning” in fact comes from the word “panorama”). Panoramic paintings date to the late 1700s. One style was a painting of a city landscape showing 360 degrees of the cityscape from one viewing point using a usual painting height, but very wide. The painting would be hung in a circular venue and viewed from the inside. 

A variation of this is the moving panorama, invented in 1791 in Edinburgh in Scotland. The painting would be on cloth that could be unrolled. It was a very popular entertainment in the middle and later 1800s. Such a painting might be eight feet high and hundreds and hundreds of feet long, with each end fixed to a roller so that a viewer sitting in a chair would experience the entire river rolled past. 

An example would be a painting of the Mississippi River from its source to its meeting with the Gulf. The river would not be shown mile by mile but by particular sequential and representative scenes. This was not great art, being closer to theater scene painting than the art hanging in museums. But that did not matter to a public hungry for visual entertainment. The panoramas would travel from town to town, and show for several days or weeks. 

The panorama would have one or more speakers describing the passing scenes, often accompanied by a variety of real objects used by the speaker. There might also be musical accompaniment. Panoramas continued to be shown as late as about 1900. Few of them survive today. These moving panoramas are among the ancestors of the movies.

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