Victorian Panorama Picture
Monday Aug 23st (sic) Spent this day at Mrs Stetsons. Cousin
Harriet called in the morning and I went out
with her into some of the stores Oakes A
went with her to the Panorama this afternoon
Mrs Mills came in awhile and Ann Clark
called and staid to tea and Mrs Ames & self
went home with her to make a call
Evelina really was on vacation. Here it was Monday, laundry day back home, and she wasn’t choring, or sewing, or washing the breakfast dishes. She was out shopping and socializing for most of the day.
Oakes Angier went out, too, in the afternoon. He and Cousin Harriet Ames went to a special display, one that Evelina had visited the first day they arrived. It was a Panorama of the Garden of Eden, perhaps on temporary display in the town’s new Lyceum.
Panoramas, a popular art form in the 19th century, were large, horizontal paintings of popular subjects. In a manner of speaking, panoramas and its later cousins, cycloramas, were the installation art of their time. Usually depicting a single grand subject, like the Garden of Eden, or a famous battle (i.e. Gettysburg), the paintings were designed to be displayed in a consecutive or circular fashion, so that a viewer like Evelina or Oakes Angier could essentially walk into a display area and be surrounded by the subject matter.
British historian Jonathan Potter has written extensively on panoramas, citing a 19th century “desire to see all” as the impetus behind the art form. “The Victorian Panorama was one of many attempts to embrace the world in a single glance,” he writes. Among the most famous American examples was a Panorama of the Mississippi, painted in 1847 by John Banvard. It covered three miles of canvas and depicted a compacted view of 1,200 miles of river, from the mouth of the Missouri River south to New Orleans. Published in Boston by J. Putnam, it was advertised as “being by far the largest picture ever executed by man.”** Other panoramas were much smaller; some were reproduced as framed engravings suitable for parlor walls.
*Example of 19th century Panorama/
**Jonathan Potter, University of Leicester, www2.le.ac.uk