Extinct Entertainments No. 2

By Hazel Last edited 120 months ago
Extinct Entertainments No. 2

We are proud to bring you a constant stream of the best and brightest entertainment news each day... but we are also proud of our reports on London past. In this series, we join up our talents and take a look at London entertainments that no longer exist, and the closest equivalent available today.

2. Panoramas Before 3D, Imax and virtual reality helmets, eighteenth century Londoners quite happily made do with 'panoramas'. They weren’t the views themselves, but 'realistic' 360-degree paintings, rendered by an artist perched somewhere popular and high (like the top of St. Paul’s). Irish artist Robert Barker invented the term 'panorama' and opened a building off Leicester Square with a rotunda 90 feet in diameter to show off his crazy canvases. Geographer James Wyld took the concept one step further with The Great Globe in 1851: a sphere 60 ft tall. It was viewed on four floors from the inside and decorated with nothing less than the entire physical features of the Earth, 'on the scale of an inch to ten miles'. Beat that Google Earth!

Where are they now?

The Great Globe was demolished in 1862, but bits of Barker’s rotunda are in the Church of Notre Dame de France on Leicester Place. The Museum of London features paintings bearing the name 'panorama', although these are simply large images depicting magnificent views, and don’t require viewing 'in the round'. The BBC London website features interactive, 360-degree images of a wide range of sites, but sadly, you’ll have to trek out of the capital to find an authentic experience. There is a panorama of water lilies by Monet in Paris at the Musée de l’Orangerie, and a dramatic example in Wroc_aw, Poland of The Battle of Rac_awice. Housed in a circular stadium (pictured, left), visitors enter via an underground tunnel, then up a flight of stairs to witness the 360-degree battle scene from the inside. A similar building once stood in Regent’s Park. The panorama also features scorched earth, burnt trees and scattered weaponry, laid on a 10 feet platform stretching out from the painting, to enhance the 3D effect.

By Tim Benzie. Read the first Extinct Entertainments here.

Image shows exterior of the The Battle of Rac_awice in Poland by Tim Benzie and exterior of the Imax cinema in London by Matt Brown.

Last Updated 11 November 2008