The panorama - 2

Virtual Edinburgh: 200 Years of image innovation

In 1796 Robert Barker received a patent for his system of representing an entire surround landscape through painting. He began his work producing 360-degree images of the views from Calton Hill and the top of St. Giles ísteeple. This form, the panorama, was destined to become the great mass medium of the early 19th century.

Great domes and circular buildings to display panoramas were built in many of the worlds great cities: the pioneer of early photography Louis Daguerre began his career as a showman of the diorama in London and Paris.

In their prime these were huge structures and were not just restricted to representing landscapes as can be seen from this rare photograph of the painting of "Blucher crossing the Rhine" taken in 1913.

This clumsiness, inert nature, and difficulty of transportation eventually overwhelmed the great advantage of its immersive nature though the Kaiser Panorama was an ingenious attempt to create a more versatile structure. Note how the viewing position has changed to being on the outside looking in. A number of variations on the initial idea were tried (such as the Frauenkirche projection, viewed by looking at a special distorting glass but none overcame the basic limitations of the system.

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