The Cyclorama of Jerusalem is one of the few remaining large panoramas that are still on exhibition. (The other one I know of is at Gettysburg.) Is was created in the 1880s and has been exhibited at the pilgrimage site of Sainte-Anne-de-Beauprè since 1895. Cycloramas are large paintings that form a complete circle creating a “virtual” space where you can immerse yourself in a place and time. As the glossy brochure says, “We claim 3-D as a modern invention but this Cyclorama, in existence for a so long time, gives such an illusion of depth that viewers feel they are among the crowd marching with Roman soldiers…” (p. 2)
My theory is that types of media are like species – you have periods of exploding variety, and then something happens, and all the experiments die out before a particular technology. The late 19th century saw an explosion of different types of immersive media, including panoramas and other optical expositions. Cinema made them all obsolete, effectively wiping the variety out. We are now in another period of expanding diversity – what technology will survive?
To get a sense of the reception of these panoramas you can search our project Performance In Victorian Hamilton for the word “panorama”. Here is a short piece from August 28, 1858,
Last Night of the Panorama
LAST NIGHT OF THE PANORAMA.–During the past week this splendid painting has been visited by thousands of our citizens. But one opinion is expressed by those who have seen it, that of unqualified admiration. The descriptive lecture of Mr. Eaton only requires to be heard to be appreciated. To-night Miss Chapman will sing several Scottish Ballads, the singing of this lady alone is well worth the admission fee, therefore all who have not yet seen the Panorama of India, should take the opportunity of doing so this evening, it being the last. Another attraction has been added to the entertainment, which is this evening for the benefit of the talented delineator, Mr. Eaton. The Artillery Band have kindly volunteered their services. Such a programme as this must necessarily fill the Mechanics’ Hall. We would recommend our friends to fo early and secure good seats. (Hamilton Spectator, Aug. 28, 1858, Page 3, Column 1.)
Bibliographic Entry: Cyclorama; The Unforgettable Moment. Sainte-Anne-de-Beauprè: Cyclorama de Jèrusalem, 1995. http://www.cyclorama.com/
(Updated July 2023.)