1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Panorama

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PANORAMA (Gr. πᾶν, all, and ὅραμα, view), the name given originally to a pictorial representation of the whole view visible from one point by an observer who in turning round looks successively to all points of the horizon. In an ordinary picture only a small part of the objects visible from one point is included, far less being generally given than the eye of the observer can take in whilst stationary. The drawing is in this case made by projecting the objects to be represented from the point occupied by the eye on a plane. If a greater part of a landscape has to be represented, it becomes more convenient for the artist to suppose himself surrounded by a cylindrical surface in whose centre he stands, and to project the landscape from this position on the cylinder. In a panorama such a cylinder, originally of about 60 ft., but now extending to upwards of 130 ft. diameter, is covered with an accurate representation in colours of a landscape, so that an observer standing in the centre of the cylinder sees the picture like an actual landscape in nature completely surround him in all directions. This gives an effect of great reality to the picture, which is skilfully aided in various ways. The observer stands on a platform representing, say, the flat roof of a house, and the space between this platform and the picture is covered with real objects, which gradually blend into the picture itself. The picture is lighted from above, but a roof is spread over the central platform so that no light but that reflected from the picture reaches the eye. To make this light appear the more brilliant, the passages and staircase which lead the spectator to the platform are kept nearly dark. These panoramas, suggested by a German architectural painter named Breisig, were first executed by Robert Barker, an Edinburgh artist, who exhibited one in Edinburgh in 1788, representing a view of that city. A view of London and views of sea fights and battles of the Napoleonic wars followed. Panoramas gained less favour on the continent of Europe, until, after the Franco-German War, a panorama of the siege of Paris was exhibited in Paris. Since then some notable panoramas have been on view in the cities of Europe and America.

The name panorama, or panoramic view, is also given to drawings of views from mountain peaks or other points of view, such as are found in many hotels in the Alps, or, on a smaller scale, in guide-books to Switzerland and other mountainous districts. In photography a panoramic camera is one which enables a wide picture to be taken.