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Making Visible: The Diorama, the Double and the (Gothic) Subject
Of the pictures opening at the Diorama in Regent's Park in 1830, The Times made the following note:
The views at the Diorama are again changed, and France and Switzerland are once more placed before our eyes without our encountering the nausea of crossing the Channel, the roguery of continental innkeepers, and all the other innumerable and indescribable miseries of foreign travel. Thanks to the contrivances of modern ingenuity, the "long drawn aisles and fretted vaults" of the Cathedral at Rheims are now fixed snugly in the Regent's-park, and the rocks of Mont St. Gothard, torn from their old foundations, are reposing quietly in the same vicinity. All this is owing to the magic pencil of Messrs. Daguerre and Bouton, who, if they have not given us the realities of these magnificent objects, have at least given us imitations of them so wonderfully minute and vivid, as to appear more like the illusions of enchantment than the mere creations of art. (22 April 1830)
The continued appeal of the London Diorama, after seven years in business, is neatly conveyed here: questions of convenience aside, the Diorama as a form of popular visual entertainment retained an impressive power to create and control the field of the visible, and to produce illusions so convincingly "real" that they appeared to be the result of magic rather than the "mere" work of art.