I attended the Mario Carpo seminar yesterday which was about Alberti as being the pioneer of the digital, and the devices and methods he adopted to solve problems we now, so easily, use the computer for. I asked him if he knew anything about the Catoptric Cistula, or any other forms of projective devices. He asked met to look up Martin Kemp and his book ‘Devices of Wonder’.  Here are some of the amazing references I then found..

‘There were panoramas, dioramas, cosmoramas, diaphanoramas, navaloramas, pleoramas …. Fantoscopes, fantasma-parastases, phantsmagorican and fantasmaparastatic experiences, picturesque journeys in a room, georamas; optical picturesque, cineoramas, phanoramas, stereoramas, cycloramas, panorama dramatique.’[10]


The Kaiserpanorama, 1900

  • Took up to 25 patrons
  • Show a series stereoscopic slides of exotic places
  • A showing lasted around half an hour


The Mareorama at the 1900 Paris Exposition, received 1500 spectators

  • to project the illusion of being on a ship deck cruising to Mediterranean, the Riviera, Venice, Naples etc.
  • with lighting to simulate changes from day to night
  • moving panoramas to simulate the vistas of voyage
  • structure was mechanically agitated to simulate the movement of the ship
  • had multiple inputs (audio, visual, sound, smell, sensation: breeze) to create a multi-sensorial experience


Section of the Rotonda, exhibited in Leicester Square as The Panorama, 1801

  • These ‘embracing views’ of the modern geography and landscape were popular in the 19th century
  • context: spatial expansion, absorption, consumption, mobilisation in colonization and travel
  • they provide visual and spatial pleasure: ‘spatial curiosity and the pleasures of site seeing’[11]


Paintings of American city views used in panoramas

These devices become ‘the projection of an inner world into an outer geography’.[12]


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