Robert Barker had the idea for the panorama in 1787, while taking a walk on Calton Hill outside Edinburgh. He patented the idea on 19 June 1787. He created a half-panorama to demonstrate the concept. He moved to London and exhibited the Panorama of Edinburgh at his house there in 1788. He then painted a Panorama of London from the Roof of the Albion Mills and set up a temporary rotunda at 28 Castle Street. The rotunda was too small and the canvas had to be cropped, but note the vantage point was a symbol of the Industrial Revolution at the time. He then had the famous and successful Leicester Square Rotunda built.

The concept picked up rather quickly. Very popular and economically viable in large cities the first half of the 1800s, panoramas and rotundas spread across Europe and eventually to North America.

Popularity more or less waned mid century until a resurgence in 1870, when the Franco-Prussian War breathed new life into the form as a propaganda/news tool on both sides, and a standard size was developed by limited companies and distribution networks (e.g. Société des Panoramas Belges) based on those adopted by Hitteroff in 1839: 15 meters high and 220 meters long. Panoramas appeared worldwide…at least a few in Japan and at least one in Rio de Janeiro.

Many Crucifixion scenes in the 1890s.

At least seven panoramas were shown at the Exposition Universelle of 1889. Petrol Panorama included a sea voyage and scenes of Pennsylvania and the Caucuses. The History of the Century by artists Alfred Stevens and Henri Gervex, and researcher Hippolyte Tain, presented the palace and gardens of the Tuieries filled with 1000 people from the last 100 years of French history. Charles Castellani's All of Paris at the New Opera with all the principle personalities of art, literature, theater, politics and society.

1892-1894, The Avenger, a boat on hydraulics in a rotunda depicting a French vs. English naval battle.

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