Daguerre and Dioramas
From 1822 onwards,
Daguerre created a new form of
art - the diorama.
Dioramas were large
paintings, in the case of Daguerre,
meters long and 14 meters high, painted on transparent linen, which gave a
spectacular effect when lit by combinations of light from in front and
In some cases the
scene would transform from a daylight scene to a moonlit scene when the
lighting changed. In other cases, switching on additional lighting
behind the scene could cause figures to "miraculously appear" in the scene.
In some cases, such as his view of
Holyrood Chapel, Daguerre
also produced smaller oil paintings of the same scene. The lighting in
his paintings was very realistic - in fact very similar to what might be
found in a photograph.
Daguerre was to continue to paint dioramas for about 20 years before he
announced his discovery of the
photograph - a small image on silver-plated copper.
Scenes painted by
1822 and 1839, twenty of Daguerre's dioramas were displayed in
Paris. Each display lasted for several months. Three of scenes
painted by Daguerre were local to Edinburgh. They were:
Interior of Chapel of
Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, by Moonlight
Roslyn Chapel near
Edinburgh, effect of sun
Edinburgh during the Fire of 15
dioramas were displayed in a specially erected buildings in Paris and
London, then later in Dublin, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Diorama was opened in Lothian Road in late 1827 [RDW]
It appeared in the Edinburgh Trade Directories under the management of
Joseph Hall, lithographer, each year from 1831 until 1845.
Dioramas were shown in Edinburgh. Further details can be found on
R Derek Wood's web
Diorama in Great Britain in the 1820s.
The Mound Diorama
There was also a second diorama in Edinburgh in the early 1840s.
It was situated beside the
Galleries in Princes Street, about half a mile from Lothian Road.
are some of the advertisements for dioramas that appeared in the
Edinburgh newspaper, The
Waterloo Rooms Diorama
Waterloo Rooms are situated
close to the East end of Princes Street and Calton Hill. It can be
seen from the 1854 advertisement below that this became another venue
for showing dioramas in Edinburgh
BRITISH DIORAMA is
now open daily from twelve to four and from seven to ten, evening in the
NEW BUILDING immediately above the Rotunda, MOUND, embracing:
- A VIEW of the TOWER of LONDON during the recent conflagration.
- ST GEORGE's CHAPEL, Windsor Castle and
THE FLIGHT OF THE GREAT NASSAU BALLOON, 1836.
1s 6d, Pit 1s
0d, Gallery 6d.
6 Jan 1842]
A review of the diorama in The
Caledonian Mercury on 6 Jan 1842 began:
heard the paintings at Mr Gordon's diorama spoken of in terms of the
highest praise, we paid them a visit the other evening with our
expectations proportionately raised and we must say that all our hopes
were completely realised, for a more wonderful exhibition, whether as
regards the skill of the artist, or ingenuity of the mechanist, we
believe is seldom looked upon. ...
understand that on New Year's Day no fewer than 1,500 persons visited
THE GRAND DIORAMA OF HINDOSTAN
This Sublime Exhibition is the most
beautiful DIORAMA that has ever been exhibited.
Daily at TWO and EIGHT pm at the Waterloo Rooms, Edinburgh"
British Advertiser: 24 April 1854, page 1]